'Yoga is not a religious practice': Hansa Yogendra

Yoga has been found to be beneficial for a range of health conditions

92-Hansa-Yogendra Age is just a number: Hansa Yogendra | Amey Mansabdar

Hansa Yogendra—endowed with geniality, flexibility and the ability to motivate people—has been practising yoga from age three. Today, at 76, she is one of the most respected yoga teachers  in the world. She has also been at the forefront of the yoga movement in the country.

Hansa Yogendra is the director of The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, which is the oldest yoga centre in the world, founded in 1918 by her father-in-law, Shri Yogendra, who is behind the modern revival of yoga.

Hansa Yogendra is the chair of the Yoga Certification Committee for Quality Council of India, and president of the International Board of Yoga, and the Indian Yoga Association. 

Even at her age, Hansa Yogendra is leading yoga classes around the world. The Yoga Institute, till date, has trained more than 50,000 yoga teachers.

Excerpts from an interview:

You have been practising yoga since you were three. Today you are 76. How has yoga changed you and your perspective of life?

From a very young age, I have realised that through a dedicated and consistent practice, yoga can bring about various positive changes—both physical and mental.
Yoga has given me health benefits because this practice has the potential to increase flexibility, strength, and balance in the body.

When it comes to mental health, yoga helps to reduce stress, enhance focus and concentration, and promote a sense of peace and harmony.

By cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness, yoga has certainly provided a deeper understanding of myself and the world around me.

Over the years, yoga has definitely enriched my life by bringing about a shift in my perspective to see the bigger picture. This has inspired me to spread the light of yoga to enable others to live life with better balance and clarity.

How does yoga enable you to lead a proper life?

Yoga offers a comprehensive approach to leading a fulfilling life. It provides tools and techniques to develop physical, mental and emotional health, and spiritual growth.
Through the practice of asanas, pranayama, and meditation, a person can attain a state of physical and mental harmony.

Yoga teaches us to listen to our bodies, respect our limitations, and make conscious choices that support our well-being. It promotes self-discipline, self-acceptance, and self-care.

Yoga encourages mindfulness and being present in the moment. This helps a person to develop resilience and cope with the challenges of life more effectively.

Do you agree that yoga can be used as an adjunct therapy for various medical treatments?

Yes, yoga can indeed be used as an adjunct therapy for various medical treatments. The therapeutic benefits of yoga have been recognised by medical professionals and researchers worldwide.

Here, at The Yoga Institute in Mumbai, over the years, we have observed positive changes in persons suffering from various ailments.

Yoga has been found to be beneficial for a range of health conditions, such as stress, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, cardiovascular health, and musculoskeletal disorders.
It can complement traditional medical treatments by promoting relaxation, improving physical fitness, and reducing inflammation.

Your father-in-law, Shri Yogendra, is referred to as the father of modern yoga renaissance. What are the main qualities you have imbibed from him?

Over a century ago, Shri Yogendra ji played an important role in popularising and modernising yoga, making it accessible to people from all walks of life—especially householders. He is known as a Householder Yogi.

Shri Yogendra ji’s emphasis on a scientific approach to yoga, combined with practicality and simplicity, laid the foundation for The Yoga Institute in Mumbai.

Some of the main qualities that I and others have imbibed from Shri Yogendra ji include a commitment to spreading the benefits of yoga to a wide audience, a focus on maintaining the integrity and authenticity of yoga teachings, an emphasis on continuous learning and research, and a dedication to serving the community through yoga education.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, he persuaded the United Nations to declare June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. What do you have to say to those who say promoting yoga in the manner that we have seen in the last few years is a ploy to whet the Hindu pride and marginalise minorities. There are many who believe that yoga transcends religions and they practise it. But there are many who also say that yoga has roots in Hinduism. Your reaction?

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in India and has its roots in various philosophical and spiritual traditions, including Hinduism.

While yoga's origins are deeply connected to Hindu philosophy, it is essential to recognise that yoga itself is not a religious practice.

Yoga transcends religious boundaries and can be embraced and practiced by people of any faith or belief system. It is a practical discipline that focuses on personal growth, self-realisation, and overall good health.

The promotion of yoga as a global phenomenon and the designation of June 21 as International Day of Yoga is aimed at highlighting the universal benefits of yoga for physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

Yoga can be practiced and enjoyed by people worldwide, regardless of their religious or cultural backgrounds, as it offers a path towards physical and mental harmony, peace, and self-discovery.