GOKARNA: If Indians have a fad for liking anything that comes with a ‘western’ tag, here is a foreigner, who found solace in India and its spirituality. Paris-born Swami Yogaratna Saraswati has made India her home for the past 30 years, and has been teaching yoga to Indians and foreigners. From last four years, Swami Yogaratna Saraswati has been running ‘Yoga Meditation Centre’ with the help of Shankar Prasad Foundation in Bankikodla village near Gokarna.
She was born to Australian parents, but raised in India. After schooling in Mumbai, her job took her to Australia and other countries. But wanting a stress-free life, she returned to India and joined a two-week course at Bihar School of Yoga in Bengaluru in 1984. She received sanyas the next year and served in the ashram, learning and teaching yoga, meditation and philosophy.
Between 2004 and 2012, she travelled across the globe and taught yoga and meditation in Bengaluru, Kerala, Ghataprabha, Paris, New Zealand and several other places. In 2012, she started a yoga centre in Bankikodla, which has trained hundreds of Indians and foreigners till date.
“Yoga provided me the much-needed relief when my job had become too taxing. It was then I decided to help others find peace through yoga. Many in the IT sector find their job stressful and ultimately the work pressure takes a toll on both their physical and mental health. My centre at Gokarna will help them get rid of their stress and worries. Even the gods came to Gokarna in search of peace,” says the swamini.
The centre is located on a two-and-a-half acre land, which also houses an organic farm and a playschool. Free classes on meditation and yoga are conducted twice a day for both Indians and foreigners. Apart from these classes, a special two-week yoga and spiritual course is held to help people lead a stressful life.
Many foreigners take this course and reside here to learn yoga, meditation and spiritual practices. They even conduct havan (fire ritual) every Saturday. During their course, they are supposed to cook food and keep houses and fields clean. As a part of Karmayoga, they also have to work in fields.
“I’ve been here for the past one month. I love the village and its natural beauty and enjoy performing yoga and reciting mantras. With the help of domestic workers, we prepare healthy Indian food. We eat rice, sambar and chapati often,” says Nienke Keeselperg of Holland.
“Yoga improved my confidence and health by several notches,” she adds.
Tina Ropcke of Germany decided to tour India to get relief from her hectic work schedule.
“One of my friends told me about yoga and this centre. I came here to pursue the two-week course. And I now take delight in practising yoga and meditation and doing havan and karmayoga. I have learnt many mantras for peace and good vibes here,” she says.
The Yoga Centre building was constructed in 1934 in traditional Indian style. All household items, including furniture have a traditional touch.
“India has rich tradition and food culture. We are conducting meditation in this traditionally-built house to generate spiritual vibes,” says Swami Yogaratna Saraswati.
At present, there are 10 foreigners from US, Australia, New Zealand and other countries pursuing the course here. They are also involved in several social awareness programmes, including clean India campaign. Many of them want to impart what they learnt here when they return home.