Swami KuvalayanandaThe architect of the worldwide spread of yoga.
It is Swami Kuvalayananda, whose efforts are chiefly responsible for the worldwide spread of Yoga. It is due to his efforts that this ancient discipline of Yoga became more acceptable to modern mind, trained on scientific and rational guidelines. It is a fact that due to his scientific work, Yoga became more widely acceptable and accessible in the field of health & healing.
Swami Kuvalayananda (30 August 1883 – 18 April 1966) was a researcher and educator who is primarily known for his pioneering research into the scientific foundations of yoga. He started scientific research on yoga in 1920, and published the first scientific journal specifically devoted to studying yoga, Yoga Mimamsa, in 1924. Most of his research took place at the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center which he also founded in 1924. His influence on modern yoga has been “profound”.
Swami Kuvalayananda was born Jagannatha Ganesa Gune in a traditional Karhade Brahmin family in the village Dhaboi in Gujarat state, India.. Kuvalayananda’s father, Sri Ganesa Gune, was a teacher and his mother, Srimati Saraswati, a housewife. The family was not rich and had to depend for some time on public and private charity. Being from a poor family, Kuvalayananda had to struggle hard for his education. Nevertheless, at his matriculation in 1903, he was awarded the Jagannath Shankarsheth Sanskrit Scholarship to study at Baroda College where he graduated in 1910.
During his student days, he was influenced by political leaders like Sri Aurobindo, who was working as a young lecturer at the university, and Lokmanya Tilak’s Indian Home Rule Movement. His national idealism and patriotic fervor prompted him to devote his life to the service of humanity. During this time, he took up a vow of lifelong celibacy.
Coming into contact with the Indian masses, many of whom were illiterate and superstitious, he realized the value of education, and this influenced him to help organize the Khandesh Education Society at Amalner, where ultimately he became the Principal of the National College, in 1916. The National College was closed down by the British Government in 1920 due to the spirit of Indian nationalism prevalent at the institution. From 1916 to 1923, he taught Indian culture studies to high school and college students.
Kuvalayananda’s first guru was Rajaratna Manikrao, a professor at the Jummadada Vyayamshala in Baroda. From 1907 to 1910, Manikrao trained Kuvalayananda in the Indian System of Physical Education which Kuvalayananda advocated throughout his life. As early as the 1930s, Kuvalayananda trained large groups of yoga teachers as a way to spread physical education in India.
In 1919, he met the Bengali yogin, Paramahamsa Madhavdasji, who had settled at Malsar, near Baroda, on the banks of the Narmada river. The insight into Yogic discipline, under the guidance of Madhavdasji, greatly influenced Kuvalayananda’s career.
Though Kuvalayananda was spiritually inclined and idealistic, he was, at the same time, a strict rationalist. So, he sought scientific explanations for the various psychophysical effects of Yoga he experienced. In 1920-21, he investigated the effects of some of the Yogic practices on the human body with the help of some of his students in a laboratory at Baroda Hospital. His subjective experience, coupled with the results of these scientific experiments, convinced him that the ancient system of Yoga, if understood through the modern scientific experimental system, could help society. The idea of discovering the scientific basis behind these yogic processes became his life’s work.
In 1924, Kuvalayananda founded the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center in Lonavla in order to provide a laboratory for his scientific study of Yoga. At the same time, he also started the first scientific journal devoted to scientific investigation into yoga, Yoga Mimamsa.
The Sanskrit word mimamsa means “investigation.” Yoga Mimamsa, has been published quarterly every year since its founding and is scheduled to be indexed by EBSCO in 2012.
In Yoga Mimamsa, Swami Kuvalayananda and others published the first scientific experiments on yogic techniques, such as the effect of asana, shatkarma, bandhas, and pranayama on humans.
These experiments impressed some Western researchers who came to the Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center to learn more. Dr. Josephine Rathbone, a professor of health and physical education, visited from Columbia University in 1928. K.T. Behanan, a doctoral candidate from Yale University, wrote his dissertation on yoga after visiting in the late 1930s. In 1957, the physicians Wenger, from the University of California, and Bagchi, from the University of Michigan, spent a month and a half working there. Research and collaboration continues to this day.
Besides his yoga research, Swami Kuvalayananda was a tireless promotor of his causes, and he spent much of his later years opening up new branches of Kaivalyadhama and enhancing the main Kaivalyadhama campus in Lonavla.
In 1932, he opened the Mumbai branch of Kaivalyadhama at Santacruz. It was relocated to Marine Drive (Chowpatty) in 1936, and named the Ishvardas Chunnilal Yogic Health Center. Its mandate is the prevention and cure of various diseases through Yoga. In this same period, at Kanakesvara near Alibaug, a Kaivalyadhama Spiritual Center was inaugurated.
In 1943, he opened another branch of Kaivalyadhama in Rajkot, Saurashtra, with spiritual practices as its main focus.
In 1944 at Lonavla, the Kaivalyadhama Shriman Madhava Yoga Mandir Samiti was founded to pursue scientific and literary research in Yoga
The Gordhandas Seksaria College of Yoga and Cultural Synthesis was established in 1951 at Lonavla to prepare young people spiritually and intellectually for selfless service to humanity.
In 1961, he opened the Srimati Amolak Devi Tirathram Gupta Yogic Hospital for the treatment of chronic functional disorders with the help of Yogic techniques.
Some of his pupils, like Padma Shri awardee, S. P. Nimbalkar, have become known yoga teachers in their own rights.