Less than 100 years ago, women were excluded in yoga spaces. Yoga was just for men.
Eugenie Peterson was born on May 12, 1899. Her father was Swedish and her mother Russian. Eugenie attended drama school in Moscow and escaped to Berlin with her mother when the Communists came to power in 1917. In Berlin, she became an actress and a dancer. She became fascinated with India at the age of 15. In 1927, her fascination led her to travel to India.
Using the stage name Indra Devi, she became a rising star in Indian films. In 1930, she married Jan Strakaty. Through him she met the royal family, Maharaja and Maharini of Mysore who were sponsoring a yoga school led by yoga guru Sri Krishnamacharya. This school taught boys from a young age all aspects of yoga. Indra Devi convinced the guru to take her on as his first female student. She toughed it out with the rest of the boys and became a yoga teacher.
In 1947, she traveled to America and opened Hollywood's first yoga studio. Movie stars, like Eva Gabor (Green Acres) and Greta Garbo (Ninotchka), sought Indra Devi as their teacher. They found yoga's breathing and relaxation techniques useful to their work. She became known as the mother of western yoga.
Indra left Hollywood to travel and teach all around the world. After visiting Argentina in 1982, her popularity increased. She formed a foundation aimed to share her yoga methods. She died on April 25th, 2002, at the age of 102 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Thanks to Indra Devi, women have made an enormous impact on providing yoga in communities worldwide.
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