Bengaluru: While Indians swell with pride that the United Nations declared June 21 as International Yoga Day, many don’t know that it was Swami Vivekananda, a monk, who popularised Yoga in the West more than 125 years ago, through his epoch-making “Sisters and Brothers of America” speech in the Parliament of Religions held in the United States way back in the year 1893.

Born in Kolkata in the year 1863, he met his spiritual guru Ramakrishna Paramahamsa in the year 1881, and then on, there was no looking back. So profound was Ramakrishna’s influence on Swami Vivekananda that he renounced his family and home and became an ascetic.

After he became massively popular through his oratorical prowess in America, he touched upon the topic of Yoga in the year 1894. This was a result of his constant study of the behaviour of the Americans who yearned to have a taste of spirituality as practised in India, from someone who was really experienced.

If there is anyone who can claim credit that Yoga is scientific, rational and therefore universal, it’s Vivekananda.

Vivekananda also laid great emphasis on four Yogas, namely, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana and Raja Yoga. Each of these classes pertains to a specific way of attaining the ultimate goal of life – mukti or salvation – through meticulous and sincere practice.

It is in this regard that he once famously said:

“Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or mental discipline, or philosophy—by one, or more, or all of these—and be free.”

During his stay in the United States, Vivekananda started many centres preaching Vedanta and even started the famous Ramakrishna Mission in India in the year 1897.

In relation to Yoga he once famously said:

“All this bringing of the mind into a higher state of vibration is included in one word in Yoga — Samadhi.”

Swami Nirbhayananda, a senior monk leading his life based on principles laid out by the Swami, says, “It was Vivekananda who showed the world that through Yoga, even an ordinary man can have extraordinary benefits and uplift himself.”