Twenty years ago, Rajendra Yenkannamoole, known to the community as Rajendraji, felt his inner voice calling for something more in life. Working in marketing and project management for some of the world’s biggest multinational companies, he felt the urge to empower the people around him and transcend monetary wealth.
Born in a small village on the border of Karnataka and Kerala, Rajendraji practiced yoga as a child. But it was a 1993 visit to his Guru Paramahansa Swami Maheshwaranandji in New Zealand that pushed his life onto a different path.
“Life is not just earning for yourself – people are always working for one extra dollar, and there is no end to that; [instead I thought], how can I empower the community?” he says.
“I had a desire; weekends just come and go, life goes away, so much wastage of time. I thought I should add value, not meaningless talk, so I invited my friends to my home and taught yoga on Sundays from 4 to 6.”
So began Vasudeva Kriya Yoga, a weekend hobby in Rajendraji’s own home, which quickly burgeoned into community halls and entire weekends of classes in different suburbs. Rajendraji and his teachers now run classes in over 20 centres in Melbourne and are expanding internationally.
YOGA FOR ALL
Vasudeva Kriya Yoga pride themselves on bringing the transformative power of yoga to the masses; they’ve run classes in retirement homes, schools, parks, community leisure centres, and even travel to villages in India for humanitarian projects. Classes are often free or heavily discounted, and some are even held online.
Rajendraji feels yoga can unlock everyone’s untapped capability.
“Yoga means connecting yourself to higher possibility, whatever you may be, and not settling for ordinary living,” he says. “When you have higher potential, why compromise yourself for ordinary things? The world is looking for leaders…yoga prepares you to become someone extraordinary.”
With the advent of Instagram influencers and yoga advocates such as PM Modi, yoga is gaining traction on the world stage; the International Yoga Day session on the lawn of the UN headquarters set a Guinness World Record for most participating nationalities.
Recently, Rajendraji was invited to lead International Yoga Day celebrations in both the Federal and Victorian Parliaments, with both events well attended by MPs on both sides of politics.
“When I went to Parliament, many MPs said they regularly do yoga,” says Rajendraji. “However busy they are, yoga has become a part of their life. Even the MPs are doing it, it’s not just at grassroots level. Yoga is becoming universal.”
However, Rajendraji argues it’s time for yoga to be embraced by the wider healthcare system as a preventative measure.
“Healthcare gets about 17% of the overall budget, but it’s still not enough; governments are working on reactive methods, whereas yoga is a preventative measure,” he says. “You can build a hospital on every corner, but people need to start taking responsibility for their own lives, what they eat, how they recreate – these things make a difference.”
A LIFE CHANGING PRACTICE
For Rajendraji, lifelong yoga practice has shaped his life immeasurably. He believes in sharing its benefits with as many people as possible.
“Yoga gives me immense confidence to stand in front of people. Yoga makes me want to give back to the community, and not be satisfied with the trivial things in life. I’m physically flexible, physically strong, mentally alert and spiritually connected,” he says.
Rajendra Yenkannamoole hopes more people can overcome their reservations to give the discipline a go.
“General excuse people have is ‘I’m not flexible, I can’t do yoga’,” he says. “But beyond the physical flexibility, you need mental flexibility, be willing to change. My oldest student is 100 years old, but still practicing – it’s a mental yes.”
For those who do try yoga, Rajendra Yenkannamoole believes it has a lot to offer them if they can stick with it.
“Life is precious, and health is wealth,” he says. “Yoga is not just for the 21st of June, it is 365 days a year. Your body is a vehicle, and you need a roadworthy vehicle for the journey. Take interest, look after yourself and travel great distances in your life through yoga.”
Vasudeva Kriya Yoga hold classes all around Melbourne, conducted by trained volunteer teachers; for more information, visit their website.