Devi, Indra (1899-)
Devi, Indra (1899-)
Pioneer teacher, writer, and lecturer on hatha yoga. She was born on May 12, 1899, in Riga, Russia, as Eugenie Petersen of Russian and Swedish parentage. Petersen was educated in St. Petersburg. Her first marriage was to a diplomat, her second to Sigfrid Knauer, a medical doctor, on March 14, 1953. She was fascinated by Oriental philosophy and mysticism and lived in India for 12 years and in Shanghai, China, for seven years.
While in India Petersen actively supported the movement for Indian freedom and was friends with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, and Pandit Nehru. She suffered from a supposedly incurable heart disease for some years, but was cured miraculously by yogic healing. As a result she studied hatha yoga under Swami Kuvalanayananda, one of two yogis who helped revive hatha yoga as a new "scientific" health discipline. Petersen took the name Indra Devi. She started a school of yoga in Shanghai, which she maintained throughout the Japanese occupation and introduced to Australia.
After the war she returned to India, where she was the first Western woman to teach yoga. In 1947 she went to the United States, where she started the Indra Devi Yoga Foundation, a yoga school in Los Angeles. She also traveled widely, lecturing on yoga. During her lecture tours she visited the U.S.S.R. and lectured on yoga to a group that included members of the presidium. She also introduced yoga to the health spa created by Edmond Bordeaux Szekely in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico. In 1958 she became a consultant to the Instituto de Filosofia Yoga in Mexico. Along the way she met Sai Baba, the contemporary Indian teacher, and became one of his early advocates in America. She founded the Sai Yoga Academy in Baja, California, and Mexico. As of the year 2000, Indra Devi is still alive at the age of 100 and is working on a book about Sai Yoga.
Devi, Indra. Forever Young, Forever Healthy. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1954.
——. Renew Your Life through Yoga. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1963.
——. Yoga for Americans. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1959.
——. Yoga—the Technique of Health and Happiness. Kitabi-stan, India, 1948.