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History of Yoga in Russia. Part 1
May 13, 2014 14:24


Majority of people practicing yoga today believe that yoga started its way in Russia with opening of modern clubs or popular fitness centers, and have no idea that there was, for example, the Yoga Association of the USSR. Yoga was spreading in the Russian Empire and the USSR until the 1970s, when all the oriental practices were banned in the Soviet Union.

However, in spite of that thousands of people in different regions of the country went on practicing yoga, and yogic life brimmed with a variety of events.

Russian people were interested in yoga even before the revolution of 1917. In the Soviet era it was not safe to practice yoga because it was ideologically forbidden, but nevertheless there were enthusiasts who learned and mastered yogic techniques with the help of few remaining books and samizdat (underground press) copies.

Boris Leonidovich Smirnov (1891 — 1967) was a well-known doctor and an expert in foreign languages. As a youth he was fond of oriental philosophy. After giving a lecture on thought transfer in Kiev in 1930 he was exiled for a few years to Yoshkar Ola. In the evening of his life, when seriously ill and resigned, he translated Mahabharata into Russian. The quality of his translation is highly appreciated by experts.

The writer and journalist Victor Ivanovich Voronin authored a cycle of articles on hatha yoga in the Science and Life journal in 1980 and 1981 and wrote a book on hatha yoga later.

The inventor engineer in the rocketry field Jan Ivanovich Koltunov (born in 1927) was fond of sports starting from his young years. When a student of the Moscow Aviation Institute, he became the master of sports and got interested in self-improvement in a broader sense of this word and that logically led him to yoga and Wushu. Just like many engineers in those years he spent lots of months on test ranges with irregular and very intense working hours. Exercising and yoga helped him to sustain this pressure. After the age of 50 years he felt the call for sharing his practical experience in self-improvement and health enhancement with other people and founded a health group based on meditative jogging, yoga and wushu in Bolshevo near Moscow and then a club (naturally, named Cosmos), which was an escalating success and attracted hundreds, and at times even over a thousand people. In this regard he was expelled from the Communist Party of the USSR in 1983, and fired from his work with a note of political unreliability, which left him unemployed for the next 3.5 years. After Perestroika he recommenced club lessons and participated in organizing and holding over 20 rallies, propagated the club’s practices in person and in the press, aspired to create a social movement and founded branches in other cities and areas of the USSR, including Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Gennady Grigoryevich Statsenko founded Yoga School in Moscow in 1963. It was followed with opening Yoga Academy – a higher professional educational institution in 1989. The Yoga Academy was renamed into the Yoga Guru Ar Santem Institute in 1994. 

 

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Author: Vera Ivanova

Tags: Yoga     

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