The union with the Divine; the contributions of the Yogendra family in bringing Yoga to the masses, to the householders and to the women; the inner journey of Hansa ji
What stands out in Hansa ji's life is that her life in the service of Yoga has been lived almost entirely within the confines of suburban Mumbai, and not as some may deem necessary, in the Himalayas. Hansa ji is the Director of The Yoga Institute– the oldest organized centre of Yoga in the world.
Hansa ji represents a lineage of yogic Gurus, starting from Paramhans Madhavdas who was born in the last decade of the 18th century and onwards to the Yogendra family into which she was married into through her union with Dr Jayadeva Yogendra. The asceticism of Shri Yogendra - a householder Yogi, his wife Sita Devi – the first householder woman yogi in modern India, Dr Jayadeva Yogendra who inspired thousands with his simplicity and erudition alike; onwards to the smiling motherly persona of Hansa ji.
This multi generation yoga immersion has inspired several third generation yoga practitioners. Says one, “My grandfather learnt yoga from the founder, my parents from Dr Jayadev and I have learnt from Hansaji and other senior gurus. We are typical householders, and doing yoga for two-three hours doesn’t fit our schedule. Here, we learn to incorporate yoga in our daily activities such as stretches after waking up in the morning. It also helps us with our frame of mind in difficult situations and dealing with family and peer pressure. What draws me in is that in spite of being in the heart of city, is that the institute is calm, peaceful and it teaches yoga as a way of life.”
In the yogic etymology, Hansa means symbol of the soul, and stands for the virtue of discrimination. As Hansa ji expands upon the meaning of life, that there is a “C” between “B” (birth) and “D” (death) and this “C” stands for the power of choice, which means that even as pain is inevitable in life, suffering is not.
Given her early education at a school based on Gandhian principles, she was influenced by the philosophy of Gandhiji. Swadhyaaya (self study) and self discipline were a part of her growing up. From the age of twelve, it came natural to her to sit in yogic postures for long periods of time without external distraction. Sometimes she would stay for many hours a day in Swadhyaaya, observing her breath, synchronizing it with heart rhythms and controlling the mind. She began to practice awareness of her emotions throughout the whole day realizing that this was crucial to mental stability. If she perceived any deterioration in her mental or emotional balance she would recite a Mantra or prayer, or hum a song. To Hansa ji, to put a genuine effort to see the joy in every difficult situation is key to a yoga seeker. Hansa ji pays special attention to Isvarapranidhaana (surrender to the will of God), which allows the individual to carry on regardless, even when complete understanding of events is not available. Ultimately, the whole purpose of life converges to living the eternal values. Says Hansa ji, “The purpose of a strong body and a healthy mind is to do one’s duty with love and compassion.”
Her emphasis on spreading Yoga education to impact the lives of women led to the expansion of the Institute into starting programs for women : Pregnancy, Pre-natal and Post-natal camps, and the Menopause Women’s Camp. The Yoga Institute has been at the forefront of creating a frontline team of yoga teachers through various Teachers' Training Courses (TTCs) since 1954. The TTCs have provided a major thrust to the spread of the message of yoga across the globe. The Yoga Institute also engages in "Anna Brahm", distribution of food wherein almost 10 million meals have been distributed so far.
She was also involved in the mammoth project of ‘Caring Heart’ where patients undergo intensive Yoga Lifestyle Training for a year and evaluation is done to see regression of coronary artery disease.
Hansa ji is also a television personality – she featured as a yoga expert in the popular television series 'Yoga for Better Living’. The Yog Institute and Hansa ji herself have a thriving web presence. A science and law graduate by education, Hansa ji has also trained herself in classical singing, kathak and playing the sitar - also she is a kabaddi player.