Sri Swami Sivananda, Swami Satchidananda’s Guru, founded the Divine Life Society and taught Poorna Yoga, which Swami Satchidananda translated as “Integral Yoga,” for the West. The distinctive teachings that Swamiji brought with him integrated the physical discipline of Yoga, the spiritual philosophy of India, and the interfaith ideals that he was soon to pioneer in the West.
Swami Satchidananda Arrives
It was the summer of 1966 in New York City when pop artist icon Peter Max introduced his friends—a lively group of artists, photographers, musicians, and hip and aware folks—to Sri Swami Satchidananda, who had arrived for a 2-day visit arranged by filmmaker Conrad Rooks. When Swamiji first arrived in the West in 1966, Yoga was largely unknown in that part of the world. There were no Hatha classes at the local YMCA. Health food stores contained only bottles of vitamin supplements and photos of body builders. Few understood the meaning of karma. When most people thought of a yogi, they remembered a popular cartoon man sleeping on a bed of nails. All this changed when Sri Swami Satchidananda arrived in the West.
It took only a few evenings in Swami Satchidananda’s company and a few Yoga classes to inspire Peter Max and friends to request Swamiji to extend his stay in America. Swamiji agreed and began to teach classes in Hatha Yoga, lead kirtans, and give talks—all from his temporary residence at the Oliver Cromwell Hotel. Soon, his enthusiastic students rented a larger apartment at 500 West End Avenue and founded the first Integral Yoga Institute on October 7, 1966.