The Bicycle Yogis: The Journey Begins
A gutsy group of Isha Hatha Yoga teachers decide to travel from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas on bicycles to teach Yoga for free to village school children. They share their ongoing journey with us.
Three Isha Hatha Yoga teachers, as part of their initiative "Bicycle Yogis," have set forth on a 6500 km journey from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas to offer classical Yoga to village children - on bicycles!
In the course of the 11-12 month journey, they will teach Isha Hatha Yoga at two schools per day for free. After learning the Yoga practices, the children will continue to practice on their own during school hours.
How It All Started
Meet the Bicycle Yogis: Ajay Mani Raj, 32, from Vellore, Tamil Nadu, Shivanga Solberg, 27, from Holmestrand, Norway and Annie Liebman, 31, from Oakland, California, USA. Though they come from different parts of the world, all three share two things in common: An Isha Hatha Yoga teacher certification and a venturesome mission to spread Yoga across rural India.
When Ajay visited the Thiruvannamalai Mountain for the Karthikai Deepam festival in 2011 with photographer friend Arndt Herman from Germany, they conceived of a plan to bicycle the longest road in the world - the Pan-American route from Alaska to Argentina.
During a satsang before the teacher training program, Ajay made an internal promise to Sadhguru that if he got selected for the teacher training program, he would make the Pan-American bicycle trip and teach yoga along the way.
As he was sharing this with Shivanga in 2015 during their Hatha Yoga Teacher Training, they began to toy with the idea of teaching Yoga along the way, especially since classical Hatha Yoga is not readily available in the West. But first, they chose to thank the East.
Below, in response to the blog team’s questions, they share with us their goals and motivations, revealing how they were inspired by Sadhguru to share Yoga with the world.
Why Did You Choose to Journey Across India?
We finally decided to cycle across India because we wanted to give Yoga to Mother India first as she has gifted this science to the world. Also, there is already widespread interest and support, making it so much easier to set up classes. We chose to teach in villages because even in India there is no ready access to these tools in rural areas.
In ancient India, Yoga used to be a part of our education system but this has been lost over time due to various external factors. We want that culture to resurge and for everyone to have an experience of Yoga and meditation as part of their education.
Why Teach Yoga to Children?
We wanted to focus on children because we really wish we had learnt this while we were in school! They are taught so many things in school every day, but the ancient science of Yoga and tools for self-transformation, which we feel are the most important things you can learn, are missing in most places. So we want to change this and make some form of Yoga available as soon as possible to the next generation.
We chose bicycles because you can easily miss a lot of things on the way if you are on a motorcycle or in a car. If someone is curious and wants to talk to you, you can easily stop the cycle and talk, which is less likely on a faster vehicle. Also while bicycling, we can really take in the scenery and all the places we pass through, and really get the feel of the land.
We don’t mind going slow, because anyway we are enjoying ourselves and using our bodies as fuel. We are doing this joyfully and not with the motive of making money. We want to create change.
How Many Bicycle Yogis Are There?
We have a total of three core members going the whole way, but we also have different teachers coming in as we enter different states to teach in the local language. So we are looking at around 10-20 teachers joining us throughout the journey. For instance, in the trial runs, Sarang Norway from Karnataka (in front of the car), Lohi Uppalapati and Ravichandra Bedadal from Andra Pradesh (Lohi on the left and Ravi in the middle) joined us. In the main run, during the first month, joined Yugadev (2017 batch Hatha Yoga teacher) and Jessica Zartler, an Isha Meditator and friend.
Also, as we are only going through the central part of India, we are reaching out to teachers in different states of India to conduct free classes in rural schools near them. This way, if every teacher takes at least one class, we can reach thousands of children all over India!
We are also talking to our teachers abroad to take this up. Our fellow teacher Thibaut from France is already planning to do this in the near future, on a bicycle. Mili in Colombia and Hans in Germany have already started contacting schools in their country.
What is the Goal?
We want Yoga to be part of our education system. We hope the Indian government will make this happen in a year or two, if they start seeing the transformation in the schools we teach at. For us, in our experience, our natural capability and energy multiplied manifold from doing Yoga, and we have experienced so much inner freedom and bliss. We want to set up these classes, so that everyone can experience the same.
We wanted to go on a journey that would also benefit the people around us. This is our own way of expressing gratitude for what we have received from Sadhguru.
The team is doing really well and has so far conducted 38 Yoga classes in schools and various institutions, covering over 8000 students in government and private schools, colleges, old age homes, orphanages, and a sports academy. Their endeavor has already earned them a well-deserved place in a national newspaper and the local Tamil Nadu media.
Don’t miss out as we follow the Pan-Indian journey of the Bicycle Yogis in this new series. It’ll be “wheelie” fun! If any school is interested in hosting the Bicycle Yogis, email firstname.lastname@example.org.