By Nischala Joy Devi
For over 30 years, Nischala Joy Devi has been highly respected internationally for her innovative way of expressing Yoga and its subtle uses for spiritual growth and complete healing. In this interview, she reflects upon her Yoga journey and how she is adapting the language of her teaching to a new generation of Yoga seekers.
Integral Yoga Magazine: Where did your Yoga journey begin?
Nischala Joy Devi: I began practicing Yoga while I was living in Colorado in the early 1970s. I was working in the medical field and decided to quit because I was very disillusioned by the lack of heart and caring. I was also trying to figure out who I was at the time. I decided to move to California, and I got a job at a women’s health clinic in San Francisco. Someone told me about the Integral Yoga Institute (IYI), and I decided to check it out. At the front door was a picture of this amazing being. I said to myself: “I don’t know what he has but whatever it is I want it!” After class the teacher said, “Come on, I’ll make you some herbal tea.” That was beginning of my love affair with the IYI. I began going regularly.
IYM: When did you actually come face to face with the person in the picture at the IYI?
NJD: There was a program “Meeting of the Ways.” It was “pick your guru”—many of the prominent teachers at the time were all there talking about their way of seeing the path. The grace and dignity I saw from Swami Satchidananda, and the joy he had, really inspired me. Since the path of joy and love had always been my path, I knew he was my Guru. The other masters were eloquent and very powerful. I felt so blessed to be with them and to make my decision in that gathering.
Some time later, I heard that Gurudev was coming to the IYI and that he would be giving mantra initiation. I decided to take it. I had an amazing experience when he passed the energy. That experience inspired me to go Oregon where I sat by a river and spent time daily contemplating and meditating on what I really wanted to do with my life. There was a new IYI in Denver, so I went there, got involved and then took pre-sannyas (pre-monastic vows). When the person in charge of the IYI left, six months later, I was placed in charge. I called Gurudev twice a week for his guidance. One time, he told me to teach Raja Yoga, but I was just beginning to study it myself, and told him so. He replied, “Don’t worry, just stay two pages ahead of the class.” [Laughs] So that’s what I did. In 1977 I took sannyas.
IYM: What is your view on those coming to Yoga today?
NJD: Many coming don’t have the training or exposure to the great masters that we had in our generation. What they know as Yoga, mostly the physical part, is all that is offered. If Yoga is taken only at face value or only as something that helps us with stress management, then it’s fine to have all these different “flavors” of Yoga as an entry way. It’s like a funnel—the top of a funnel is wide and the bottom is narrow. So, a lot comes into the funnel, but how many actually get to the bottom of the funnel? We have seen the fads that come and go. Sometimes I smile when I hear about flying Yoga, jazz Yoga and this and that kind of Yoga. One part of me questions, “Why do they even call it Yoga?” There obviously is something that is drawing those people to want Yoga but they don’t know what it is. Not everyone is ready to sit in a 10-day silent meditation retreat. This isn’t the generation for sitting on a bare floor [laughs]…
Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2010 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.