Satyananda Saraswati

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Satyananda Saraswati
Born(1923-12-25)25 December 1923
Almora, Uttarakhand
Died5 December 2009(2009-12-05) (aged 85)
Senior posting
GuruSwami Sivananda Saraswati

Satyananda Saraswati (25 December 1923 – 5 December 2009), was a Sanyasi, yoga teacher and guru in both his native India and the West. He was a student of Sivananda Saraswati, the founder of the Divine Life Society, and founded the Bihar School of Yoga in 1964.[1] He wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.


Early life[edit]

Satyananda Saraswati was born 1923 at Almora, Uttaranchal,[2] into a family of farmers and kshatriyas.[3]

As a youth he was classically educated and studied Sanskrit, the Vedas and the Upanishads. He says that he began to have spiritual experiences at the age of six, when his awareness spontaneously left the body and he saw himself lying motionless on the floor. Many saints and sadhus blessed him and reassured his parents that he had a very developed awareness. This experience of disembodied awareness continued, which led him to many saints of that time such as Anandamayi Ma. He also met a tantric bhairavi, Sukhman Giri, who gave him shaktipat and directed him to find a guru to stabilise his spiritual experiences.[4] However, in one of his early publications, Yoga from Shore to Shore, he says he would become unconscious during meditation and that "One day I met a mahatma, a great saint, who was passing by my birthplace...So he told me I should find a guru."[5]

At age eighteen, he left his home to seek a spiritual master. In 1943 at the age of twenty, he met his guru Sivananda Saraswati and went to live at Sivananda's ashram in Rishikesh.[1] Sivananda initiated him into the Dashnam Order of Sannyasa on 12 September 1947 on the banks of the Ganges and gave him the name of Swami Satyananda Saraswati. He stayed with Sivananda for a further nine years but received little formal instruction from him.[2]

Bihar School of Yoga[edit]

In 1956, Sivananda sent Satyananda away to spread his teachings. Basing himself in Munger, Bihar, he wandered as a mendicant travelling through India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Burma and Ceylon for the next seven years (although on several occasions he said he travelled only through India[6]), extending his knowledge of spiritual practices and spending some time in seclusion.[2]

In 1962 Satyananda established the International Yoga Fellowship Movement (IYFM) in Rajnandgaon.[2][7] IYFM inspired the establishment of ashrams and yoga centers spiritually guided by Swami Satyananda in India and all over the world.[8][1][9]

In 1964, he founded the Bihar School of Yoga (BSY) at Munger,[1][10] with the intention that it would act as a centre of training for future teachers of yoga as well as offer courses on yoga.[8]

Among those who attended courses at BSY were students from abroad and students who subsequently emigrated from India.[11][12] Some of these people in turn invited Satyananda to teach in their own countries. He lectured and taught for the next twenty years, including a tour of Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Singapore, North America between April and October 1968. The foreign and expatriate students also established new centres of teaching in their respective countries.[13]


In 1988 Satyananda handed over the active work of his ashram and organisation to his spiritual successor, Niranjanananda Saraswati, and left Munger.[14]

From September 1989 he was in Rikhia, Deoghar, Jharkhand.[15] [16] There he lived as a paramahamsa sannyasin and performed vedic sadhanas including panchagni, an intensive sadhana for peace, abundance and well-being for all, performed before five blazing fires outdoors from Makar Sankranti (mid- January) to Karka Sankranti (mid-July).[17] It was during the Panchagni sadhana that he received the (divine) mandate "Take care of your neighbours as I have taken care of you" [18]

There he conducted a 12-year Rajasooya Yajna which began in 1995 with the first Sat Chandi Maha Yajna, invoking the Cosmic Mother through a tantric ceremony. During this event, Satyananda passed on his spiritual and sannyasa sankalpa to Niranjanananda.[19]

During his stay in Rikhia, he undertook the task of constructing homes for the homeless and established Rikhiapeeth ashram.[20] Its activities are based on the three cardinal teachings of Sri Swami Sivananda - serve, love and give through the activities of Sivananda Math, which provides free medical care and basic amenities to the people of Rikhia and the neighboring villages and supplies methods for the villagers to develop their own means of livelihood, thus enabling the development of a self-sustained society.[18]

In 2009, he entered into Mahasamadhi on the midnight of 5 December. [21]


Swami Satyananda's teachings are based on the yoga teachings of Swami Sivananda. They emphasize an integral approach known as the Satyananda System of Yoga. They present yoga as a lifestyle to enhance the quality of life, including one's daily activities, interactions, thoughts and emotions, rather than reducing it to a practice or philosophy.[22]

This integral system combines six main branches of yoga. Hatha, Raja and Kriya Yoga are referred to as the external yogas, as they focus on improving the quality of body and mind, the expression of the senses and behavior. They aim at reconditioning and fine tuning the various aspects of the aspirant's personality. Karma, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga are referred to as the internal yogas, as they are concerned with cultivating a positive attitude towards life's situations and the expression of creativity. Here ideas and perceptions can be transformed, based on the aspirant's experience, understanding and sadhana (sustained practice), allowing a harmonious expression of one's inner qualities.[23]

In this way the Satyananda system of yoga addresses the qualities of head, heart and hands – intellect, emotion and action – and attempts to integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of yoga into each practice.[24]

Hatha Yoga[edit]

In the contemporary development of yoga as exercise, Hatha Yoga has in new forms become the most popular branch of yoga. However the original aim as envisaged by the ancient yogis is often neglected and Hatha Yoga is generally reduced to the performance of body postures, to attain physical fitness.[25][26]

In the Satyananda system of yoga, the original aim of Hatha Yoga is maintained, that is, the balance between the two major forces of life, prana shakti or vital force and chitta shakti or mental force. This in Satyananda's view is the meaning of the word "Hatha", the combination of the mantra Ham, standing for pranic energy and the mantra Tham, standing for mental energy.[25][27][28] It is stated in the classical Hatha yoga texts, that when balance is attained, a third force - shushumna nadi, awakens in the center of the spinal cord expressing itself through an inner state of harmony, peace, understanding and wisdom. Eventually ajna chakra, an energy center in the mid-brain awakens, leading to the experience of pure transcendental awareness.[28]

Among the many classical texts on Hatha Yoga are the Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Yogi Swatmarama, with a strong emphasis on attaining complete physical health and balance, presenting teachings suitable for householders, and the Gheranda Samhita of Sage Gheranda which focuses more on the mental, psychological and spiritual aspects, and provides an approach for Sadhakas, Yogis and Sannyasins.[29][30]

Based on these classical texts and his personal experience, Swami Satyananda presented Hatha Yoga in his work Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha,[31] which has been translated into numerous languages and is widely used. Using modern language and easily understandable terminology in APMB, he outlines the original aspiration of Hatha Yoga by integrating all practice aspects - asana, pranayama, mudra, bandha and shatkarmas in the classical progression, with detailed information on how to implement each practice and its benefits. In his practical approach he explains the purification practices, the shatkarmas (the six actions) in an easy to understand manner, so that general yoga practitioners are also able to use techniques such as Neti (nasal wash), Kunjal Kriya (stomach wash) and Shankaprakshalana (intestinal wash),[32][33] to attain physical purification and sound health as a solid foundation for further progress in Sadhana.

From the body of subtle exercises known as Sukshma Vyayama, Swami Satyananda extracted the most essential ones and structured them in the Pawanmuktasana Series 1–3. These practices are usually simple and gentle, but are most effective in removing the energy blocks from the body and preventing new ones from forming. The Pawanmuktasana Series is one of the most important practices of Hatha yoga and one of the special contributions of the teachings of Swami Satyananda, as they aim at preparing the practitioner for the classical postures.[34]

Swami Satyananda further structured the classical asanas into standing, backward and forward bending, twisting and inverted techniques and assigned them to categories of beginners, intermediate and advanced techniques. For each technique he introduced not only the physical perspective, but also the pranic and mental components and the related chakra and mantra awareness. Asanas were not random practices anymore but could be used in a systematic and progressive sequence.[35][36]

Swami Satyananda was one of the first yoga exponents to publicly teach the science of Pranayama. The precision of his presentation of the various classical techniques and their progressive stages from beginners to advanced level is unparalleled. He structures the techniques into the groups of heating, tranquilizing and balancing practices and therefore gave practitioners the understanding of the system underlining this complex science.[37][38][39]

Similarly, it was him who presented the practice of Mudra and Bandha (gestures and internal locks) as a means to attain mental and pranic stillness and redirect energy/prana [29] internally to prepare for the meditative states of Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana.[37][40]

Raja Yoga[edit]

After body, prana and mind have been prepared with Hatha Yoga and a state of lightness and health has been attained,[41] Raja Yoga aims at focusing the dissipated mental energies and managing the inner modifications of the mind.[42] As in Hatha Yoga, there are two paths, in Raja Yoga, the Samkhyian system for householders and the Vedic system for sadhakas and sannyasins.[43]

Today the most well known Raja Yoga text is the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali, which is based on the Samkhyian school of thought.[43] Its teaching revolves around the development of the drashta, the observer/witness quality, through a sequential process known as ashtanga yoga – the eightfold path. By progressively expanding and refining awareness, the eight stages of Raja Yoga aim at attaining clarity of thinking and behavior,[42] unfolding the dormant potential of the mind to eventually awaken higher intelligence, wisdom and true understanding.[44]

The eight stages are:[45] 1. Yama (self restraints to regulate outer/social life) and 2. Niyama (disciplines to harmonize inner/personal life), 3. Asana (steady posture), 4. Pranayama (breath control), 5. Pratyahara (techniques to direct the mind and senses inwards), 6. Dharana (techniques to concentrate the mind), 7. Dhyana (meditative state of mind), 8. Samadhi (experience of unbroken peace and luminosity).

The Satyananda system of yoga recognizes mind management as the main aim of Raja Yoga, hence the emphasis lies on stage 5 – Pratyahara. Although many Pratyahara techniques start at a basic level of awareness, when practiced systematically, the progressive stages enable the aspirant to experience deep states of mind and sense withdrawal, preparing for techniques of concentration (Dharana) and eventually states of meditation (Dhyana).

In the Satyananda system of yoga the following Pratyahara techniques are introduced to general yoga practitioners. Swami Satyananda Saraswati, devised the techniques, based on the ancient scriptures, and introduced them systematically in his books "Meditations from the Tantras",[46] "Sure Ways to Self-Realization"[47] and several other books.

Kaya Sthairyam uses the physical body as a point of concentration. It aims at developing absolute stillness of the physical body as well as the senses, the cerebral input and output, the perceptions and associations and the pranas, leading to mental concentration.[48]

Ajapa Japa incorporates awareness of breath, internal psychic passages and Mantra. It is a complete Sadhana in which the Mantra So Ham, which corresponds to the subtle sound of the breath, is applied.[49]

Antar Mouna works with the activities of the waking consciousness. The practitioner learns to witness his thoughts and feelings in a neutral way and realizes how he can progressively reduce the congestion of the mind and bring about calmness and develop concentration.[citation needed]

Satyananda Yoga nidra is both a systematic deep relaxation technique and a tantric meditation. It provides a systematic method to induce complete physical, mental and emotional relaxation. Satyananda Yoga Nidra is practiced lying on the back in Shavasana (corps pose) and one appears to be asleep. However, the consciousness functions at a deeper level of awareness allowing mental blockages to be removed so that the inner potential of the practitioner can unfold.[citation needed]

Kriya Yoga[edit]

One of the hallmarks of the system of yoga developed by Swami Satyananda, is a series of 20 Kundalini Kriya techniques. The word "Kriya" means activity which refers to specific movements of consciousness which is one of the key components of the Kriya Yoga system. [50] It is an advanced system of yoga to access the psychic or spiritual dimension of human existence. [51] [52]

On a practical level it aims at the awakening of the dormant kundalini energy, thus allowing a sadhaka (practitioner) to access his complete human potential.[53] In most of the classical yoga systems, the mind is willfully brought under control. In Kriya Yoga however, the practitioner is not asked to counteract the disturbances of the mind. He is given specific, subtle inner movements that systematically refine his consciousness and release energy.[51]

It can be stated that at present, there are two main streams of Kriya yoga. That of Paramahamsa Yogananda and that of Swami Satyananda. Previously Kriya Yoga was handed down from teacher to disciple by word of mouth (oral tradition) and none of the classical scriptures describes the techniques in detail, so the ordinary practitioner could understand how to apply them.[52]

Swami Satyananda opened up the science of Kriya Yoga and presented it to the broader public.[54] Originally there are more than 76 kriyas mentioned in the scriptures, Swami Satyananda choose 20 of them.[55] He described them in detail and systematized them in a clear structure to be learnt over a period of 3 years,[56] to make this ancient science available for the practitioner in the present age.

The Kriya Yoga techniques as devised by Swami Satyananda consist of a combination of asana (body posture), pranayama (breathing techniques), mudra (gestures), bandha (inner locks), mantra (subtle sounds), chakra (energy centers) awareness, psychic passage awareness and visualization. He divided them in 3 sections: pratyahara kriyas, dharana kriyas and dhyana kriyas, thus enabling the practitioner to sequentially progress through the related meditative states of mind and consciousness.[55]

He also initiated a 3 years correspondence course in Kriya Yoga which resulted in the book: A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga & Kriya.[57] Connected to the development of the Kriya yoga system, Swami Satyananda conducted an extensive research in the field of Kundalini energy [58] and chakras.[59] This resulted in the book Kundalini Tantra.[60]


Satyananda wrote over 80 books, including his popular 1969 manual Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha.[31][61] Satyananda's writings have been published by the Bihar School of Yoga and, since 2000, by the Yoga Publications Trust established by his disciple Swami Niranjanananda.[62]


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  2. ^ a b c d Aveling (1994), p. 60.
  3. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 20.
  4. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 18-23.
  5. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 8.
  6. ^ Saraswati (1974), p. 10, 72.
  7. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 159.
  8. ^ a b Aveling (1994), p. 61.
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  10. ^ Saraswati (2011), p. 188.
  11. ^ Saraswati (2018), p. 3.
  12. ^ Saraswati (2013b), p. 8,10.
  13. ^ Saraswati (2013b), p. 9.
  14. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 15.
  15. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 60,125.
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  17. ^ Saraswati, Satyasangananda. "Panchagni – the Bath of Fire".
  18. ^ a b Saraswati (2012).
  19. ^ Past, Present and Future: consolidated history of Bihar School of Yoga, Swami Yogakanti, Swami Yogawandana (eds.), 2009, Yoga Publications Trust
  20. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 56-67.
  21. ^ Pidgeon (2014), p. 124-129.
  22. ^ Saraswati (2019), p. 17.
  23. ^ "YOGA" (PDF). Ganga Darshan, Fort, Munger, Bihar 811201, India: Bihar School of Yoga. February 2020. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)CS1 maint: location (link)
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  25. ^ a b Saraswati (2019b), p. 23.
  26. ^ Saraswati (2015), p. 104.
  27. ^ Saraswati (2017b), p. 5.
  28. ^ a b Saraswati (2014b), p. 23.
  29. ^ a b Saraswati (2019b), p. 24.
  30. ^ Saraswati (2017b), p. 6.
  31. ^ a b Saraswati 1969.
  32. ^ Saraswati (2012c), p. 487-525.
  33. ^ Saraswati (2017c), p. 70.
  34. ^ Saraswati (2012c), p. 21-73.
  35. ^ Saraswati (2018), p. 4,5,9,19.
  36. ^ Saraswati (2012c), p. 137-366.
  37. ^ a b Saraswati (2018), p. 21.
  38. ^ Saraswati (2018b), p. 17.
  39. ^ Saraswati (2012c), p. 369-417.
  40. ^ Saraswati (2012c), p. 421-484.
  41. ^ Saraswati (2019), p. 25.
  42. ^ a b Saraswati (2019), p. 28.
  43. ^ a b Saraswati (2019), p. 23.
  44. ^ Saraswati (2019), p. 27.
  45. ^ Saraswati (2019), p. 33-37.
  46. ^ Saraswati (2012b).
  47. ^ Saraswati (2013).
  48. ^ Saraswati (2019), p. 35.
  49. ^ "Meditation: Antar Mouna - Ajapa Japa -Trataka".
  50. ^ Saraswati (2017), p. 10.
  51. ^ a b Saraswati (2015), p. 125.
  52. ^ a b Saraswati (2017), p. 1-2.
  53. ^ Saraswati (2015), p. 87.
  54. ^ Saraswati (2015), p. 121.
  55. ^ a b Saraswati (2015), p. 122.
  56. ^ Saraswati (2017), p. 3.
  57. ^ Saraswati (2007).
  58. ^ Saraswati (2007b), p. 1-92.
  59. ^ Saraswati (2007b), p. 113-193.
  60. ^ Saraswati (2007b).
  61. ^ "100 Best Asana Books of All Time". BookAuthority. Retrieved 26 May 2019.
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  • Aveling, Harry (1994), The Laughing Swamis: Australian Sannyasin Disciples of Swami Satyananda Saraswati and Osho Rajneesh, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8-12081-118-8
  • Melton, J. Gordon (2010), "International Yoga Fellowship Movement", in Melton, J. Gordon; Baumann, Martin (eds.), Religions of the World: A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Beliefs and Practices, 4 (2nd ed.), ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-1-59884-204-3
  • Saraswati, Satyananda (1969), Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, Yoga Publication Trust
  • Saraswati, Satyananda (2004), A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya, Yoga Publication Trust
  • Saraswati, Satyananda (1974), Yoga From Shore To Shore
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2007), A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga & Kriya, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 81-85787-08-5
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2007b), Kundalini Tantra, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 81-85787-15-8
  • Saraswati, Swami Dharmashakti (2011), Mere Aradhya, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-81620-06-9
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2012), Rikhia, The vision of a Sage, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 9789381620298
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2012b), Meditations from the Tantras, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-81-85787-11-4
  • Saraswati, Satyananda (2012c), Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-81-86336-14-4
  • Saraswati, Swami Satyananda (2013), Sure Ways to Self Realisation, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-81-85787-41-1
  • Pidgeon, Barbara (2014), Shakti Manifest, Westland, ISBN 978-93-84030-29-2
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2014b), Yoga in Daily Life, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-81620-23-6
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2015), Yoga Chakra 1, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-84753-20-7
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2017), Kriya Yoga Yatra 1, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-84753-39-9
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2017b), Hatha Yoga 1, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-84753-35-1
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2017c), Development of Satyananda Yoga, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-81620-38-0
  • Saraswati, Swami Shankarananda (2018), 50 Years of Yoga Chakra, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-84753-48-1
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2018b), Hatha Yoga 2, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-84753-72-6
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2019), Raja Yoga for Everyone, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 9788193891872
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2019b), Hatha Yoga for Everyone, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-81-938918-89
  • Saraswati, Swami Niranjanananda (2013b), History of BSY, Yoga Publications Trust, Munger, Bihar, India, ISBN 978-93-81620-41-0

External links[edit]