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.
Sources
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 PrenticeHall,
1959.
———. Yoga—the Technique of Health and Happiness. Kitabistan,
India, 1948.