Although Mountain Yoga’s core is built upon the Bishnu Charan Ghosh yoga lineage, our 5 Elemental classes integrate multiple lineages from the past into one modern system.
“Your teachings are as strong as your practice. The strength of your practice comes from your knowledge and discipline.” -Tony Sanchez
Physical culture hatha yoga may have originated from a series of asanas by Yogi Matsyendranath, founder of the Nath cult, around the 10th century AD.
A single source for 84 asanas has yet to be found. The number 84 represents completeness and is considered, by some, to be mystical. It is, therefore, entirely possible that 84 asanas were simply the universal standard for codifying a credible yoga system.
Yogi Matsyendranath is acknowledged as the first human hatha yoga instructor. His chief disciple, Gorakh Nath, was guru to Yogi Swatmarama, author of Hatha yoga Pridapika.
Unlike Buddhist and Jain scriptures and Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika does not impose yamas and niyamas (self-control, rules of conduct, and observances). Yogi Swatmarama considered them to be more religious than spiritual.
He believed that trying to follow yamas and niyamas created more mental stress than peace of mind. Instead, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika advocates discipline and purification of the body through hatha yoga, which develops self-discipline, self-control and, ultimately, induces natural spiritual development.
Yoganda’s teacher, Sri Yukteswar, author of The Holy Science, was a disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya, his parents’ guru, the first non-sadhu initiated by Babaji Nagaraj, a “sadhu” who rediscovered and clarified the technique after it had been lost in the Dark Ages. It was a revival of the same science Krishna passed to Arjuna millenniums ago and, later, know to Patanjali who wrote, “Kriya Yoga consists of body discipline, mental control and meditating on Aum.”
Bishnu Charan Ghosh, born 24 June 1903, the youngest of eight, was raised by his father, four sisters, and three brothers after his mother died just 10 months after his birth. He was a frail child but his health improved dramatically when, in 1917, at the age of 14, he was one of the first seven students enrolled at the Ranchi School for Boys founded by his elder brother, Paramahansa Yogananda.
He learned the Yogoda system, including the 84 asanas codified by Yogananda, which “combines the basic laws utilized by the ancient Yogis with the discoveries of modern physiological science.”
In good health, but not muscular, Bishnu entered Calcutta University in 1922, at the age of 19, weighing just 68 pounds. However, after three months of training with the physical education director at the college, Professor Thakurta, he weighted 100 pounds and his chest grew by nine inches.
Although he learned muscle contro as a young boy from Yogananda, his muscles were not developed enough to control at the time. After developing his body, he was inspired to practice again after seeing a demonstration in Calcutta by Burmese physical culturist Mr. Chit Tun.
After three months he was able to control his muscles to such an extent that Professor Thakurta and some of his friends insisted he give a public demonstration. He was awarded a medal that gave him the impetus to “rise above the common level and become a source of inspiration.”
In 1926, he and his college friend, Sen Gupta, who also trained with Professor Thakurta, established Ghosh’s Gymnasium for muscle development and control. In 1930, they published Barbell Exercises & Muscle Control, and trained troupes of students to perform, touring around India and the world, marketing yoga, live. His ‘star student’, Buddha Bose, demonstrated during his lectures in India, Japan, and the United States.
Bushnu had a law degree and practiced for a short while before devoting all of his time to yoga physical culture. Although his teachings were secular and solely for health and fitness, Bishnu and Buddha Bose were initiated into Kriya Yoga together by Yoganada. Buddha established the Yoga Cure Institute in Calcutta, the first of its kind. Bishnu added a community clinic to Ghosh College.
Wealthy Indian philanthropist, Sri Jugal Kashore Birla, was so impressed with Bishnu’s work he purchased land and built a large gymnasium for him in Ballygani. A tourist from Japan was so inspired by his performance that he founded a center in Japan where his daughter still teaches.
Bishnu and his students, who were known throughout India, traveled to the United States and Europe to demonstrate the power of yoga. His students appeared regularly on That’s Incredible, a US television program, and he lectured at Columbia University with his star student, Buddha Bose, who demonstrated the postures. He was invited to serve as a judge in the Mr. Universe competition in London.
According to tradition, his marriage was arranged to Ashalata Roy, daughter of Sri Rosik Roy. They had a son, Bishwanath, and two daughters, Abha and Karuna, who runs the center in Japan. Bishwanath, one of his best students, took his own troupes on tour to Japan and won a gold cup in competition. After his passing a few years ago Bishnu’s grandaughter currently runs the center in Calcutta.
Bishnu passed away unexpectedly on 9 July 1970, but his legacy lives on.
Physical culture strengthens and develops external body muscles that support the internal toning and therapeutic benefits of yoga asanas, which include digestion, evacuation, circulation, respiration, and secretion. Physical culture was established in India by the 1100s with diet, lifestyle, and training using “nal” – rough stones with a hole in the center that served as a handle. Unfortunately, during British rule, the practice of physical culture declined along with the general health of the people.
Ghosh considered his law school physical education professor, Mr. R.N. Guha Thakurta, to be his physical culture guru, however, it was a demonstration by Burmese bodybuilder Mr. Chit Tun, that inspired him to combine his physical culture training with the 84 asanas and muscle control from his brother’s Yogoda system.
After three months of intensive practice, his friends and Professor Thakurta convinced him to give a public demonstration where he was awarded a medal by Lalu Babu, a Zemindar of Dacca.
The main purpose of yogic physical culture is to tone and strengthen the invisible activities of the body, including the mind which regulates the well-being of the whole body through the intricate nervous system. This is achieved with a minimum expenditure of time and energy because asana practice conserves energy, calms the mind, and improves the physical well-being of the body while increasing powers of endurance and resistance against disease.