On my most recent teaching trip to Japan, I taught on the topic of energy—how we can contain, sustain and build our personal energy reserves.
Obviously, this is a BIG topic and the whole basis of the science of yoga.
So I decided to SHOW my students what phenomenal energy looks like at the ripe age of 100+ years old.
To be precise, the yogi in the video, Swami Yogananda, is OVER 100…but back when he was born in his small village in India, they didn’t keep birth records. No one really knows his exact age but at the time of his passing on January 3, 2015, his age was approximated to be 104. That was a few years after this video was shot.
Interesting note: It was well-known spiritual teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who arranged to have a birth certificate created so Swamiji could get a passport to visit students requesting his presence in other countries.
You might have seen this video circulating around on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites, but take a moment to ponder, who’s the OLDEST person in your own life right now?
Maybe it’s your great grandma Gertrude or auntie Mabel, who might be a mere 84 or even 91 years old. Or maybe all your elders have passed on but lived until they were happily in their 70s or 80s.
Either way, just imagine them doing even a fraction of what this man is capable of at his 100+ years.
My beautiful grandma Blanche lived for 99 years and 10 months, and even though she looked not a day over 70, she would not be able to even get up and down off the floor by herself.
How about your elders?
That might give you some perspective.
Now, I know that yoga works to keep prana moving in the body, the mind clear and the spirit happy, but Swamiji is demonstrating the actual effects of a yoga life. He is the living proof.
Needless-to-say, my Japanese students were impressed by Swamiji’s agility, lightness of body, strength, mental acuity and childlike spontaneity.
When I returned home to Hawaii, I happened to find on my YouTube feed another video about Swamiji. This time, he was being interviewed about his life and daily habits.
I’m posting it here even though the quality of the translation leaves a bit to be desired. Read on for my takeaways from this video and others I watched about his life.
As one of the world’s oldest masters, Swami Yogananda is known to have studied with Tibetan and Indian yogis for 50 years. His studies went way beyond the physical postures of yoga, expanding into the mind, body, spirit connections.
He claimed to not be religious at all. In fact, all he preached was healthy living. He didn’t believe in deities and or traveling anywhere on pilgrimages: “Paramatma is not a subject of the eyes. It is a matter of within.”
He would laugh at the foolishness of people who traveled great lengths to find the Supreme Soul.
“Why have you come here to look for it, it is inside you!” he’d say. “People waste their time looking for it all around. It is inside you and you just need to know that.”
Reportedly, he never took medicine and had never been known to fall sick. He had perfect health, perfect eyesight, perfect hearing and his original teeth.
On the day of his passing, or Mahasamadhi (“greatest liberation”), he had “no illness, no symbols of dying…nothing…had his favorite orange juice and after 30 minutes, he just passed away,” says one of his many grandsons Abhishek Kumar.
He ate mostly raw fruit, vegetables, things that come from “God’s kitchen.”
“Eat as many raw things as you can. There are three food shops. One that the God opened. Second is the hotel (the word for ‘restaurant’ in India). The third shop is that of the mother. The latter two are useless. Only the food made by God is the one to eat—all fruits, all raw vegetables and all dried fruits.”
He did say that he’d take minimal cooked foods, and included juice in his diet.
And true to Ayurvedic practices, he’d proclaim, “Chew your food 40 times!”
His practices appeared to be a combination of classic poses, plus pranayama and meditation. He practiced asana every day, which he claimed was for the body and internal organs.
But he felt that the role of pranayama was most important. (Unfortunately, I haven’t found any explanation of what pranayama practices he did.)
He was strongly vocal about not taking medicines: “If doctors had all the answers, wouldn’t they all live to be 100?”
He believed in being early to bed (8 PM) and early to rise. He would wake at 2 AM to do his meditation, concentrating on his breath.
Lest you think he only sat around his whole life doing his spiritual practices, far from it. He had 10 children and 34 grandchildren!
As one video commenter said: “This babaji has conquered age. This is the real science that needs to be rediscovered and propagated for the benefit of mankind.”
Another commenter on YouTube mentioned that he and his wife visited the ashram every year where Swamiji lived before his passing, located in Rishikesh. In response to a question about their interactions with him, he said:
Well, he was in the latter stages of this earthly existence so every day was seen as a bonus. He was amused by all of us westerners flocking to India in search of ourselves when all we needed to do was look within. His life in the ashram (Parmarth Niketan Ashram) was simple, living in a tiny room, simple meals, water, leading early morning classes which were not advertised so you found out through word of mouth. I think he liked some company as elders throughout the world do. My Indian yogi friends would always translate for me but he was just as happy to have someone to just sit and be with.
Even though I never had the good fortune to meet this swami, I’ve been touched by his simple message and personal desire “to see the whole world healthy and happy.”