January 4, 1941 – November 23, 2020
We here at Give Back Yoga Foundation are remembering Rama with love and gratitude for her clear and energetic vision of how the practice of yoga would serve the United States. She is rightly referred to as the “Mother of Contemporary Yoga in the US,” having sponsored visiting yoga practitioners from India as early as the 1960s, introducing them to students in California and throughout North America. It is safe to say she has been a huge inspiration for the work of the Give Back Yoga Foundation.
Her story evolves from years of study with yoga’s greatest masters, including BKS Iyengar, TKV Desikachar, Indra Devi, Swami Vishnudevananda, Sant Keshavadas, Swami Satchidananda, and Baba Hari Dass. Her own practice motivated her to become a peacemaker, as she led dozens of missions around the world, building relationships with citizen diplomats in the Soviet Union, Middle East, and other regions. Here she is in her own words: “I discovered a wellspring of love and a true desire to serve. These words arose out of the depths of my soul: “To love is to go on teaching forever without growing weary.” (Yoga: The Practice of Myth & Sacred Geometry, Vernon, 2014).
We joined Rama in May and June 2015 on one of her missions when she was doing just that. She devoted herself to teaching a core group of Palestinian yoga teachers in the West Bank in partnership with 7 Centers Yoga Arts, Give Back Yoga Foundation, Mindful Yoga Therapy, and Farashe Yoga Center in Ramallah. At that time, yoga was new to most residents of the West Bank. The seeds Rama and others planted during that teaching trip have blossomed as more women there have taken up yoga as a way of coping with the economic, political, and violent stresses of their lives.
That trip was hard on Rama; she had a very sensitive antenna, and she suffered from the ambient energy she sensed of the hard realities of life in the West Bank. Nevertheless, she taught with great vigor and enthusiasm every class that was planned; she radiated warmth and love to all in the room, day after day, whether in a classroom or in a refugee camp.
We tenderly leave our appreciation of Rama with more of her own words. In a message to yoga teachers, she wrote: “Transcend environmental obstacles. View them as a test of the Divine, Within the cosmic plan there is a reason for each and every opening of life’s pathways. If you are led to the path of a teacher, then let go and let Divine will work through you; the barriers to spiritual expansion will drop away. Place your heart and soul within the teachings. Teaching yoga is not a business, not even a profession. It is a privilege and a blessing.” (Yoga: The Practice of Myth & Sacred Geometry, Vernon, 2014).
You can learn more about Rama’s heart-centered yoga and her pioneering work as a yoga peace activist here. Any donations to Give Back Yoga Foundation in her honor will support scholarships for Palestinians becoming yoga teachers.