I have been following Ida Jo & Scott Lamps of Ghosh Yoga for years now. They have become an integral part of the yoga community as historians of the Ghosh Lineage of Yoga, as well as, educators and clinicians that have helped shine a light for many instructors and students over the past few years. (If you haven't discovered their teachings and books, yet, I urge you to check them out!)
Recently Ida Jo has started a campaign called, The Women of Yoga, in which the goal is to uncover the stories and teachings of the women that have devoted their lives to the practice and teaching of yoga. I so loved this idea and am grateful to have had the chance to interview Ida this past week. What you will find is a cause we can all get behind... enjoy!
T: You have been working as a yoga historian for years now. What makes you want to learn more about the women of yoga? Why now?
I: Jerome Armstrong briefly mentions a few women in his book Calcutta Yoga. While helping Jerome edit and publish his book, the idea was born… What about the women? Their stories are largely unknown, yet their contributions to yoga and physical culture are vast.
I wasn’t set on doing the project at first, but I met Chandrima Pal who lives and works in Kolkata. She’s a journalist and when I contacted her about the project, she was excited about it. Having her on board, along with the support and enthusiasm of Jerome and Scott Lamps, gave me the push to dive in. This wasn’t intended to be timed with a rise of women’s movements, but is certainly playing out that way. We’re at a point in history where people are ready to hear a side of the story that maybe wasn’t told before.
T: What have you uncovered so far?
I: On a preliminary research trip last April, we were able to find a 1955 book by Labanya Palit. Palit was a student of Bishnu Charan Ghosh and an accomplished teacher, writer and practitioner. Her book contains about forty postures and significant writing on the subject of yoga. This was a huge find and clearly shows that there is so much out there! Chandrima and I are also looking into Reba Rakshit. She was active in the 1960s and would do strong woman feats and circus acts! She would have elephants walk across her chest, and perform other stunts that were popular at the time. We’ve been able to find some writing that she did and have some leads to follow up on her story.
T: What challenges do you think you will run into with this project?
I: There are many challenges that go along with this project. One big challenge is just finding the sources and material. It takes a lot of digging and patience. However, this makes it all the more satisfying when something comes to light.
There are so many opinions around these types of projects as well. Already people have expressed that these women have been forgotten because their work was inferior to the men of their time, that the approach to this project is all wrong, and so on… It’s certainly a daily practice to stay focused on what is important— the job we’ve set out to do!
T: How can we help/get involved?
I: Right now we have a donation box on the our blog to help translate and publish Labanya Palit’s 1955 book as well as help fund the research. It takes a team to make all this happen… research assistance, translators, editors, archivists, etc. Anyone that makes a donation will also have an inside look into the project as it unfolds, as well as, have the chance to get their hands on the material as soon as it’s out there. In addition, anyone who’s interested can stay in touch with me or follow the Ghosh Yoga website and social media. We’re always updating it to share as much as we can.
Want to get involved and join the campaign? YOU can make a difference. Meet Me on Your Mat proudly pledges their support! Join the campaign now.