The First Female Yoga Teacher – Indra Devi
The First Woman Yogi- Indra Devi
The First Lady of Yoga known as Mother of Western Yoga – Indra Devi (1899 – 2002)
Real name: Eugenie V. Peterson. Indra Devi is a stage name she adopted to star in Bollywood movies. She is called Mataji (mother) by her followers.
If you have the same question that how Yoga reached to the Western world. Today you will get the answer. Who is the person given their contribution to spreading the knowledge of Yoga in the west? Learn from the Indian Yoga Guru being a female it was not easy to become a disciple of an Indian yoga master. Salute to the First lady of Yoga- Indra Devi for gaining and sharing the knowledge for westerners.
She was born in Riga but escaped to Berlin (due to the Bolsheviks). Here she became an actress and a dancer.
In 1927 she moved to Bollywood to start in Bollywood movies. There is a story, that she found a book on India at a friends house as a teenager, which she felt a very strong bond towards.
In India she sought out Triumali Krishnama Chariya to learn yoga, he turned her down (foreign female yogis were unheard of at the time). However, the Maharaja of Mysore spoke on her behalf and Krishnama Chariya accepted her as a student. He set the same vigorous program for her, as he did for his Indian male students (she passed every test he set for her). Here she became the first dedicated foreign female yogi.
In 1939 she moved to China (with her husband) and held what is believed to be the first yoga classes in China. She furthermore opened a yoga studio in Shanghai.
She later moved back to India and gained more teaching experience.
Yoga for Americans
In 1947 Indra Devi moved to the US and opened a yoga studio in Hollywood. Here she taught several celebrities. It is said that she taught Marilyn Monroe, though she has never confirmed this. Elizabeth Arden’s support helped Indra very much. “The queen of cosmetics” included yoga elements in a programme of fashionable spa-salons. In popularization of yoga, Indra puts a stake on celebrities who have an influence on the general public. “People in most of the cases like to copy tastes and habits of their idols, – she wrote in one of the books, – thus a large number of people started to practice yoga only because Gloria Swanson, Yehudi Menuhin, Pandit Nehru, and Ben-Gurion are known as adherents of yoga”.
During her first lecture on yoga in Hollywood, it is said that some thought she was giving a lecture on yoghurt (due to a high degree of ignorance around yoga at that time).
She laid claim to her own style of yoga (inspired by Patanjali), which consists of asanas, pranayama, and diet. It is said that the reason behind her success in the US was her understanding that the yoga tradition needed to be adjusted to accommodate western sensitivities.
In 1961 she opened the Indra Devi Foundation in Mexico.
In 1987 she was elected president of honor of the international yoga federation and Latin American union of yoga.
Indra Devi is acclaimed as ‘the woman who took yoga from India to the world’.
She has written several books on yoga and is believed to be the first foreigner to write and publish a book on yoga in India.
She has also recorded several instructional talks on yoga.
Indra Devi continues to have a large following. Namaste!