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Indra Devi

Often called the First Lady of Yoga, Devi was instrumental in the global diffusion of the practice.

By Helen Kitti Smith

Indra Devi, or Mataji, was often called "The First Lady of Yoga." In 1937, Krishnamacharya admitted her into his school—making her the first woman chela (pupil) and the first Western woman ever at an Indian ashram—and personally supervised her asana and pPranayama training. Towards the end of the year he told her that she must teach.

From the 1930s until her death in 2002, she was instrumental in the global diffusion of yoga, teaching in China, India, Mexico, Russia, and the United States. In 1982, Devi was invited by a group of Sai Baba devotees to teach in Argentina and did so for 15 years.

Today, Fundacion Indra Devi, whose six studios are scattered throughout greater Buenos Aires, has seen some 25,000 students pass through its doors. The IVth National Yoga Convention May 13-14, 2000, coincided with Mataji's 101st birthday. "You give love and light to everybody—those who love you, those who harm you, those whom you know, those whom you don't know. It makes no difference. You just give light and love," said this yoga luminary whose practice toward the end of her life consisted only of Padmasana, Janu Sirsasana, Ardha Sirsasana, and Ardha Matsyendrasana, but whose light has shined on the whole world.

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Natasha Salmon Cogno

Thank you for this article, because I never hear much about Mataji. It is very strange that here in America, Mataji Indra Devi --as they call her a luminary is very seldom mentioned. She was the first western woman trained by Krihnamacharya along with Mr. Iyengar and other famous yogis that made yoga famous. She was also the first western woman to teach yoga in India. She wrote the famous book "Yoga for Americans" a simple and yet to-the-fact manual for yoga. I have been very lucky to visit a couple of her centers in Buenos Aires and have practiced with David and Iana Lifar, her direct disciples in Argentina. They have maintained her tradition in the teaching of yoga. One of their studios (a 3-story majestic house) is located in front of what used to be her home. They also have a replica of what her bedroom look like. She used to sleep on the floor and used a hammock to relax. If you want some Indra Devi yoga history, a trip to Buenos Aires is worthwhile.


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I listened to a radio show in New York in 1972-1973 called "In The Spirit" Indra Devi was speaking, about her Guru, Satya Sai Baba. She testified she was trained as a journalist reporter, with a very skeptical view point. She stated that Indra Devi means Man's Mind. She stated that she had witnessed miracles by Sai Baba, like turning water into gasoline. I am surprised to read that she suffered heart disease and lived to be 102. Is this the same person? And at age 62 now I suffer from heart disease and wonder if I could live as long, if I practiced Yoga, More.. Info Please>

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