Sample from the Winter 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine
An Interview with Rama Jyothi Vernon
Rama Jyothi Vernon was instrumental in bringing some of the great Yoga Masters to America from India in the early 1960s. She helped found the first Yoga teachers association in the USA and later brought the growing diversity of teachers together in an organization called “Unity in Yoga.” The focus of her service shifted as she felt directed to spearhead a number of citizen-diplomacy efforts [including the Center for International Dialogue which she founded] toward world peace around the globe. She founded the American Yoga College and recently, she returned to teaching Yoga full-time.
Integral Yoga Magazine: You have come back full circle now to teaching Yoga?
Rama Jyothi Vernon: After China, I came back to the United States, and while sitting in meditation, I received very strong guidance, “Now, you have done this; it is time to go back to teaching the Yoga teachers.” I went back to Russia and taught Yoga there, which I had never done before [while working with international diplomacy efforts]. I was in Africa, speaking on a panel at the World Parliament of Religions. I have been in Cuba twice to teach Yoga.
Mainly, my work has been in the USA, traveling all over, working with teachers who train teachers. I couldn’t
understand why I wasn’t over there working [toward peace] in the Middle East. I thought, “Why can’t I get there to do something?” This inner voice said, “Because working with the Yoga teachers now is the most important thing you can do.” That inner peace is the most important thing that we can give to our world. And, as we know,
the thought waves, or vrittis, which we send out are so powerful that they influence other minds within a wide radius, the size of which depends on how strong those vrittis are. But, if we can find that peace [within], we can help abate the turbulence that exists in the atmosphere. Wherever I travel now [after 9/11], I see such fear and anxiety in people. They say that they are waiting “for the other shoe to drop.” However, they go on to say that when they come to the Yoga teachers classes, it is there that they find the peace which they can then pass on to their own Yoga students. So, I feel that Yoga has never been more important than it is now.
IYM: Do you think that is why we are seeing such a renaissance of Yoga in the world?
RJV: Yes! Even though a lot of it appears to be more aerobically-oriented, it is helping. There is something happening. Yoga is now a household word. There are about twenty-four million people who are practicing Yoga. Maybe this is changing the quality of the atmosphere. You know, Gurudev once said, “Trust in Yoga.” I realize that we don’t always trust in Yoga. We look for remedies outside of it, and each time we come back, we come back to a greater and renewed appreciation.
IYM: So, maybe your work with the Yoga teachers is a kind of citizen diplomacy, as well. Yoga teachers are the ambassadors of the real culture of Yoga. In the 60s there seemed to be a deeper spiritual thirst, whereas now, we have the fitness phase, the Madonna phase, the Power Yoga,
etc. Do you feel that now people are coming back to the more spiritual roots and back to the more classical Yoga?
RJV: I really do. What amazed me yesterday [watching the Teacher Training graduation at Yogaville], was seeing all the young faces there, just as I saw in the 60s. Young people are hungry and searching; they are looking for a way. Look at the world that they have come into! Either they will go into depression and hopelessness, or they will find another avenue. So, they are looking for inner peace.
IYM: What kind of a responsibility does that put on Yoga teachers today, especially with the passing – at least in their physical form – of the great Yoga Masters?
RJV: All the Great Ones that I have studied with are gone physically. And, you look around and you say, “Where do we go from here?” It is as if someone says, “Tag, you’re it – for the newer generation that is coming.” Can we pass down the stories and the experiences that we have had with these teachers and imbue others with what we have gotten from them? Can we be the carriers of that for the other people, so that they don’t forget the origins of Yoga in America?
IYM: Why do you think that is so important, especially in this day and age?
RJV: All of us can be instrumental in passing on the lineage to others. It is up to us to give whatever part we can of the beings who they [the younger generation] will never know in the body. We are the vestige of those beings. And, then the younger generation will pass those stories onto the following generation. Isn’t that how Yoga was kept alive? I can’t get weighed down thinking of it as a responsibility. But I do think that there is somewhat of a responsibility to share the legacy with others who will never know these Masters. All we can do is to share the experiences that we had with them. Yogaville is doing this – keeping the Teachings [of Swami Satchidananda] alive – through its videos, audios, and books. I think this is so important today – to keep transmitting the words and essence [of the Masters] to the newer generation so that they will carry on the light of Yoga.
Read the rest of this article in the Winter 2004 issue of Integral Yoga Magazine.