Integral Yoga Institute was founded in New York City in a large apartment on the Upper West Side on October 7, 1966, after Sri Swami Satchidananda, a spiritual teacher from India, came to America at the invitation of the artist Peter Max. The guru’s wise and practical teachings inspired many New Yorkers, mostly hippies and flower children, to take Hatha Yoga classes and attend weekly discussions on attaining peace and love without the use of psychedelic drugs. The apartment also became an ashram where students lived the principles of Yoga as taught by Sri Gurudev, as he was affectionately called by his disciples.
On October 15, 1970, a beautiful brownstone building on West 13th Street in historic Greenwich Village was dedicated as the New York IYI. Both an ashram and a teaching center, it became a beacon for spiritual seekers from all over New York City and is the place where thousands of people experienced Yoga for the first time. Many New Yorkers also discovered the joys and benefits of a vegetarian diet when the Integral Yoga Natural Foods store opened in the West 13th Street building in March 1972. For a long time, it was the only place in the city where they could purchase exclusively vegetarian products consistent with the principles of purity and nonviolence that are at the heart of Yoga.
Over the years, the New York IYI has grown to become one of the most respected and beloved Yoga centers in the city, an oasis for busy New Yorkers and out-of-town visitors. Six Yoga rooms, each painted a different color and each displaying a symbol honoring all faiths to reflect Swami Satchidananda’s credo that “Truth is One, Paths are Many,” together constitute an environment of peace and serenity. More than 6,000 students each month attend 125 weekly Hatha Yoga classes at all levels, including Prenatal, Postnatal, Flow, Restorative, and Gentle. IYI pioneered Yoga for those with H.I.V. and AIDS. Nearly 200 active teachers teach as Karma Yoga—that is, as an unpaid offering.
Courses and workshops in meditation and breathing practices, health and nutrition, and other, related teachings create a unique and rewarding atmosphere for learning and sharing. Students gather each Tuesday evening for Scripture Study to read and discuss such fundamental works as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita. Kirtans (devotional chanting) and Satsangs (spiritual discussions) draw people from all over the city. Over the years, IYI’s renowned Teacher Training program has certified hundreds of teachers in Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced Hatha Yoga, Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga, Meditation, and Gentle and Chair Yoga.
IYI offers many classes and workshops on using Yoga to deal with a wide variety of life-threatening and chronic health conditions. It has introduced programs called Yoga At Work® and Yoga At School™ to promote its message that Yoga is for everyone in every setting.
The staff of the New York IYI consists of two swamis (monks who have taken vows of poverty, chastity, and service), a few full-time staff members, and many part-time workers. The Work Exchange program helps keep the Institute running smoothly and attracts people from all walks of life to enrich the community, the Institute’s greatest asset. The Integral Yoga Shop is known throughout the city for its carefully selected books and consciously sourced Yoga products. Integral Yoga Natural Foods has twice been named New York’s best health food store by the Zagat guide. Integral Yoga Natural Apothecary, also on 13th Street, is considered by many New Yorkers to be a key component in their holistic approach to health and well-being. Together the two make up the only full-service health food store in the city that is 100 percent vegetarian.
The New York IYI is a living embodiment of Sri Swami Satchidananda’s teachings, a community where the goal for all people is to have an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life.