Popularisation of Surya Namaskar
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
When sceptical journalist, Louise Morgan, interviewed the Rajah of Aundh (Shrimant Balasahib Pandit Pratinidhi, B.A.) about his life and his practice of Surya Namaskar for the News Chronicle, little did she realise the ripple effect that would follow.
At the time Louise would not even put her name to the piece she had written, since she did not want to give credence to its content. Then, following 12 months of personal stress, and feeling particularly drained, Louise decided to try Surya Namaskar while on holiday in Dorset. Practising for 6 weeks, she began to embody the practice and understand the claims made by the Rajah of Aundh regarding its life enhancing benefits.
At the same time letters about the article began to accumulate at the News Chronicle. Everyday humans, wanted to know more about the ‘fountain of youth’. This led Louise to produce a series of articles (published 1936 in the News Chronicle) with the help of Shrimrant Appasahib (son of Rajah of Aundh), who had also practiced Surya Namaskar since childhood. Her articles outlined enough detail of the Surya Namaskar practice for people all over the UK and abroad to try the practice for themselves. More letters began to flood into the News Chronicle.
In her introduction to ‘The Ten-point way to Health’ (1938 Edition) Louise shares a poignant letter from a collier. The letter, from an ‘old man of 52’ who had worked the pits since the age of 18 and suffered debilitating silicosis in both lungs. He began to practice the exercises outlined in Louise’s articles, slowly and deliberately rebuilding strength. He wished to shake hands with Louise for the benefit of ‘nerves better, mental worry gone’.
It’s wonderful to read this story, and sense how the 'exercises' were shared and appreciated at that time. It also helps to place in context the evolution of Surya Namaskar as a practice, and helps us to be mindful that, while this sequence of movements was drawn from ancient tradition, it remains an ever evolving practice. (As an aside, at the time it was not even considered 'yoga').
Each who practices Surya Namaskar brings their own inquiry to the practice, which creates change in practice. Essentially there are no ‘correct’ versions of Surya Namaskar, there are only different expressions. We yogis can choose our version and adapt, for our needs. The more we practice and embody the practice, the more we can appreciate the nuance of the practice and its benefits. The practice is both simple, and complex; and each successive practice has the potential to bring new awareness and subtle change from within.
Shrimrant Balasahib Pandit Pratinidhi (Rajah of Aundh) (1938 Edition) Ten Point Way to Health. Dent and Sons Ltd. London. (edited by Louise Morgan, with introduction).