The Light of Yoga


Alice Christensen
Founder, American Yoga Association


This is the story of how Yoga bloomed in my life, taking complete control of me: the story of its effect upon the lives of my family and others surrounding me; the changes in my own life, and how it has changed me now that the initial attack is over. I call it an "attack," for that is what it was, yet not in the sense of something to be avoided if possible. This kind of attack is a more subtle thing — the kind of thing we notice so strongly once in a while and are so frightened by it that we try to put it out of our minds — such as a sudden awareness of evolution or the passing of time. But I am no longer frightened, and it is time to tell the story.

1 — The Beginning

One warm summer night in 1952, I went to bed at my usual time, with no thoughts to bother me except perhaps the ordinary things a busy housewife might have on her mind, and promptly fell asleep. I awoke in the middle of the night to see a huge column of light at the foot of the bed. It filled the room with its tremendous radiance. I could only remember seeing light such as this when power lines were down after a storm, flashing as they whipped and grounded themselves. The light had no shape that I could see, but it was rapidly coming closer to me. In terror I pulled myself up against the headboard hoping to wake my husband with a scream or something, but I seemed to have no will of my own. I could not speak or move my arms or legs.

Finally I gave myself up to seeing this thing — whatever it was — advance on me. I knew I was not dreaming because I could see the green branches of the maple tree outside the window, swaying in the soft summer breeze, and the curtains billowing gently in the same breeze. I watched, suddenly very quiet, and waited for whatever was to happen. The light advanced upon me and gradually began to cover me and enter my body. I knew nothing after that and awoke in the morning in what seemed to be a perfectly natural state.

That morning, I thought back over the whole thing and wondered if I had fainted from fear, and then wondered if it had not just been a dream. I remember feeling my arms and legs and thinking, "Well I’m still here and it’s morning and that was a real dilly of something or other." But, as I put my feet on the floor and started to dress, the word "Yoga" sprang into my mind. I brushed my teeth and thought about Yoga; I went to fix breakfast for my family and I thought about Yoga; Yoga filled my mind.

I wondered why; I had never even heard the word except at a county fair long ago where a turbaned man claimed he could tell the future for a small sum. Once before in my life, I could remember feeling this way. Heavily drugged after the delivery of a stillborn child, I felt my mind functioning in a far-off way, but my body would not respond. I could feel the same kind of push of this crazy word — Yoga — in my mind.

My family came to breakfast, the children went to school, and it seemed like an ordinary day. However, when my husband lingered over his coffee and paper, I felt that I had to tell him exactly what had happened or my head would burst. So I told him. He put his paper down and suggested that perhaps I needed a good psychiatrist, and with a few more funny remarks along this line, we dropped it — he to go his way and I to mine. But my way was the impulse of Yoga. It didn’t change; it stayed on and on.

At first it did not push me too much. It came up during bridge parties and dancing. When I encountered people who seemed to have some interest in the matter, I would approach the subject gently. I had never had any regular religious affiliation in my youth, and when I married I became a member of the Unitarian Church in Cleveland. Whenever I talked to any of my fellow members I would bring up the subject much in the same way as with other groups, and I found that no one really knew too much about it. I did notice that the "side-show" theory was strong and realized that there was no qualified person in the area who could talk to me on the subject.

Life went on pretty much as usual except for the push of that word "Yoga" in the back of my mind. Suddenly one day the realization came to me that I was beginning to know what would happen before it happened. It seemed such a crazy thing that I thought it must be just a happy chance of some sort; I was wrong.

I began to live in the brilliant world of the clairvoyant. Visions came from every side — mind transference and future happenings, people who came to me in dreams and hallucinations and told me all kinds of things concerning the life I led, what was to come, and most of all, about Yoga.

By this time I had read everything I could get my hands on in every library near our little town of Willoughby, Ohio, and had even gone into Cleveland to consult the superb White Collection. My name was on every waiting list for the few books on Yoga that were available. However, the best books on the mystical sciences of the East were in German and Sanskrit, and I knew neither of these languages. Inadequacy filled me as I looked in vain for someone to tell me what to do — how to start — where to begin — how to deal with this crazy world that had burst upon me. I know now that the talk of experiences with LSD throwing one into a world of altered consciousness is exactly what was happening to me at that time.

My husband was most upset by this unreal thing that seemed to be controlling me. I began to look rather tense and strained, and we made plans to go to Niagara Falls with some friends for the weekend. My boys were happy about it and we planned for a lovely time of just resting. We made reservations at a lovely place where a little garden terrace, sheltered by a stone wall, adjoined the bedrooms. We spent a wonderful day and all went to sleep that night in a happy state of tiredness and sun.

Something woke me about 5:30 or 6:00 A.M. As I looked about, I could see a strange-looking man trying the lock of the screen on our little patio. He stood there talking madly to me, telling me to hurry and unlock the screen because he did not have much time. I gave him one look, picked up the phone near the bed and called the desk. I said that some man was trying to break into our room and to send the police at once. They did, but before I laid the phone down the man started to dissolve into a misty substance and, smiling his farewell, disappeared completely from sight.

Soon hotel people were swarming all over the patio and our room and I had to stand there, knowing exactly what had happened yet not able to tell anyone. My husband awoke from a sound sleep to find our room full of people while others literally "beat the bushes" outside.

After I partially explained, we both decided that the time had come for me to see a good psychiatrist. Needless to say, we did not enjoy our trip much after this.

After we returned home, I made an appointment to see a doctor. After spending a few weeks with him, oddly enough he sent me home with the information that what had happened to me happens to quite a few people, and was more ordinary than I would think. His main point was that people in our society seldom talk about things like this as they do not fit into "normal" daily patterns. He seemed to feel that there was very little bothering me and unless I wanted to go into long analysis to find the cause of this particular thing, there was no reason to see him anymore.

In those days I desperately tried to find someone to talk to me about Yoga. I wrote to everyone who had ever written a book on the subject. I made a methodical search of every library in every town I visited. I called any name in any phone book and went everywhere that sounded as if it had anything to do with Yoga. I wrote to a Yoga institute in New York; my letters were returned — "Address Unknown." (I knew it was there!) I wrote to a man in Canada — Vishnudevananda. The letter came back — unknown. I know now he was there; he was a student of Sivananda’s. Never did I meet a group of people practicing the mystical arts. I find now that they are everywhere and were then too. Ernest Wood, that fine author of Yoga books, was notorious for answering every letter that he ever got, but he did not answer mine.

After a while, I began to realize that I was being kept alone. I fought it, but then I gave up the struggle, and now I see how much better I was for it. I had very specific guidance when my mind was in a very shaky, formative state. Any false word would have sent me scurrying off in the wrong direction. My time was very carefully planned for me. I know it now. I was forced to turn inward to myself to try to answer this mystery.

* * *

The next chapters will tell you what happened to me then.

Copyright 1970, 1978, 1997 by The American Yoga Association. All Rights Reserved.

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