The co-founder of Akhanda Yoga, Yogrishi Vishvketu began his journey as a student and practitioner of Hatha and Raja yoga and the Vedic healing arts as a child in northern India.
From the age of 8, Vishva-ji studied Vedic wisdom at Kanvashram in the foothills of the Himalayas. He went on to attain a Bachelor’s degree with a specialization in yoga and its use in optimizing athletic performance, followed by an M.A. and Ph.D. in Yoga philosophy at Gurukul Kangri, the Philosophy university of Haridwar. Vishva-ji then moved to Yoga Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh seeking advanced teachings, while teaching and inspiring students from around the world to live the yogic life with joy and dedication.
Vishva-ji teaches holistic yoga workshops internationally, incorporating diverse aspects of the practice: asana, pranayama, mudra, meditation, cleansing kriyas, philosophy, Ayurveda and Vedic chanting, as well as offering Yoga Alliance registered 200- and 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) programs in Canada and in Rishikesh (India). He calls this holistic style of teaching Akhanda Yoga, meaning whole and indivisible.
Vishva-ji esteems the great saint Baba Prem Nath of the ancient lineage of Nath for his teachings in traditional yoga, and yogis Swami Yogeshvarand and Baba Hari Nam and for their teachings in yoga, naturopathy and Ayurveda.
In the West, as people turn towards holistic health, contemplative traditions, meditation systems and a meaningful life, they are discovering that yoga has much more to offer than just fitness.
To help students on their journey to becoming whole beings, physically and emotionally healthy, and tapping into the grace in their lives, Vishva-ji offers holistic yoga teachings that provide students with insights into the diverse aspects of the yoga legacy, and not simply asana. Akhanda Yoga classes encourage participants to explore all aspects of the diverse tradition of yoga: satkarma, asana, pranayama, Vedic mantra, kirtan, and meditation, as well as to contemplate various traditions in yoga philosophy, such as Yoga Darshan (the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali).
And yet, Yogrishi Vishvketu’s classes are not too heady – often his laughter peels out through the hall, launching students into a spontaneous round of laughter yoga. His message is balance: yoga is discipline and surrender, effort and fun!
Akhanda Yoga Teacher Training programs are registered by the Yoga Alliance at the 200- and 300-hour levels. Graduates may be found teaching yoga in schools, universities, hospitals, government ministries, community and yoga centers around the world; in Canada, the US, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Italy, Hungary, Morocco, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Japan and India.
Yogrishi Vishvketu grew up in a simple farmhouse in the sugar cane fields – a quiet and contemplative child from the beginning. At six, his mother tells us, he ran away from home, making a beeline to a Shiva temple where one of his distant uncles, Mahavir Swami, was performing austere Tapasya. When he arrived at the temple, 15 kilometres away from his home, the aspiring yogi told his uncle that he wanted to wear the orange clothes of a Swami. “You’re too young yet,” he was told. He was given one rupee and some sweets, and brought back to his parents. After that experience, Mahavir Swami, seeing Vishva’s yogic nature, taught him to do likt japa (repeated writing of mantras) ‘Ram Ram’.
His mother soon discovered, to her dismay, a mountain of notebooks all filled only with the mantra ‘Ram’. When Vishva-ji came to know that his maternal uncle, Yogiraj, was running a gurukul in Kanvashram in the jungle, he began to pester his parents that he wanted to go to the gurukul. At the age of 8, his mother, Sureshvati, made him a challenge, “If you can keep your clothes clean and neat in a box, and wash and fold them yourself for one month, I will send you to the gurukul”.
And so after keeping up his side of this bargain, his formal yoga journey began with the long days at Gurukul Mahavidyale Kanvashram learning meditation, chanting, Vedic fire puja, Sanskrit, yoga, sports and other school subjects as well. Sanskrit, yoga and Vedic wisdom was the strong focus of the gurukul studies. Yogiraj, also an Ayurvedic doctor, brought a wealth of knowledge about Ayurvedic living and remedies, providing a truly holistic traditional education. Students assisted in the Ayurvedic pharmacy, learned to pick herbs in the jungle, helped to assess ailments and prescribe and give Ayurvedic remedies to aid with healing, and of course, play volley ball and practice wrestling.
With its historic temple and Ayurvedic clinic, Kanvashram attracts many yogic saints and Ayurvedic masters to this day, such as Baba Hari Nam and Swami Yogananda, and was an ideal place to absorb these ancient healing and consciousness-raising traditions.
By the age of 17, Vishva-ji was adept at Indian wrestling, yoga, agni hotra, and began teaching yoga to students from Delhi at the gurukul’s summer camps, until he went off to Hariyana Agricultural University’s Sports College to study yoga and sports.
It was there he met Baba Prem Nath, the young ascetic from Rajasthan who used to dry his six foot dreadlocks by dangling them from the second story of an ashram near the university, a testament to the already many years of his yoga journey. “While at Sports College, Baba Prem Nath anchored me in the knowledge that my inquiry into yoga was not only of the physical body.” In the traditional guru style, Vishva-ji knew Baba Prem Nath only for a few years before he disappeared. During that time he initiated Yogiji with the name Vishvketu meaning ‘world bridge or world flag’. His final prophecy for his disciple nearing graduation from his university was, “You will not get a job from anyone; you will create jobs for others”. Yogrishi Vishvketu shares, “At 22, this made only the vaguest sense to me in spite of my years at the gurukul. Now that my main work is training yoga teachers, I look back often at the teacher who in our two years of interaction, knew me so well and guided me so subtly”.
Vishva-ji went on to an M.A. and Ph.D. in Yoga Philosophy at Gurukul Kangri, the University of Haridwar. He then moved to the reknown Yoga Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh, seeking advanced teachings in pranayama and Hatha Yoga advanced kriyas from Yogi Nath, while teaching and inspiring students from around the world to live the yogic life with joy and dedication. He moved to Canada in 2001 and began to teach, bringing a passion for yoga and his fun-loving nature to the classes.
A core group of students from his Yoga Niketan days were there to support him and his vision including Robin ( Prem Sagar) from Canada, Piero (Pranav) from Italy, and Celeste (Radhika) also from Canada, and later Erin (Divya) from Canada and Etsuko (Eesha) from Japan.
From his years living in sadhana and intensive Gayatri mantra anustana in Rishikesh, Yogrishi Vishvketu was already carrying the view of Vasudhev Kutumbhakkam – the whole world is one family. As a new immigrant in Canada, Vishva-ji began to teach in government offices in Ottawa, Canada’s capital. Soon there were yoga classes taught by the “yogi who laughs” in Transport Canada, the Public Service Commission, Immigration Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the National Research Council.
In October 2003, he released an instructional DVD entitled Moving into Bliss with Yoga, presenting a holistic and balanced sequence of asana and pranayama techniques in a harmonious and meditative flow set to classical Indian music. He went on to offer a North Indian yoga perspective through his teaching and demonstrations at the Yoga Show and Conference in Toronto and around the globe.
Yogrishi Vishvketu met Baba Prem Nath while at Hariyana Agricultural University in 1993. Vishva remembers: “Baba Prem Nath’s energy was immediate and so wide open and I felt something shift in my consciousness upon meeting him, so asked if I could learn from him.” He was open to teaching his young student about the pranas. Since Vishva was in sports college, he focused on the physical practice for 4 hours each day and felt that something was missing. It was then that Baba Prem Nath appeared and taught Vishva about the major sources of pran: the breath, the food we ingest, the environment we occupy, connection with the higher self through meditation, the practice of unconditional love, the individual’s flow of creativity, and devotional practices. He used to say, “your pran is like different colours of paint and you are the painter. Whatever you want the paintings in your life to be, you can create with this life energy”. Baba Prem Nath’s personality was very attractive, and vibrant with a high aura and he had great understanding of food, consuming only one glass of cow’s milk daily for sustenance. He was living on all of the sources of prana in a balanced way.
Baba Prem Nath’s lineage of Nath originates directly from Shiva. Baba Prem Nath gave his student the name Vishvketu meaning ‘world bridge or world flag’, initiating him into the pranic system of yoga.
A peer of Swami Sivananda, and founder of Yoga Niketan ashram, neighbouring the Sivananda Forest Academy, Swami Yogeshwarananda was a Raj Yogi, very much involved in the inquiry into the subtle body and cosmology through meditation and Samadhi. His chakra and other drawings are hung in the halls of Yoga Niketan ashram to this day. As a young man, he took initiation from a wandering teacher in the Himalayas, Avadhuta Swami Atmananda, and began his deep meditations. His teachings have been compiled in several books, most notably perhaps Science of the Soul.
Vishva: “I remember as a boy seeing Baba Hari Nam at my gurukul sitting in meditation since 3 am, his spine stalk straight even at 80. In my 20s, I realized the wealth of knowledge he had about Nad Yog, Ayurveda and its remedies. Shortly before his death at 105, we were searching to see him again, and found him staying at the home of a fabric merchant in a small village reached through dusty roads filled with potholes and lumbering sugar-cane filled bullock carts. He had been brought there at 105 to heal the merchant’s son. We spoke together and mediated together. It was the only time I remember him looking even slightly world-weary. And yet, still in service and simplicity at 105! By his example, Baba Hari Nam taught incredible humility, discipline, and commitment to the Yogic and Ayurvedic arts of healing, community and self-realization.