History of the Ashram
Sivananda Ashram Beacon Yoga Centre History
The seed of our ashram could be said to have been planted some almost 60 years ago when a young Swami fresh from his Master’s ashram in the foothills of the Himalayas on the banks of the Ganges arrived in Perth at the invitation of the University of Western Australia to give a series of lectures entitled “Yoga: An Ancient and a Living Faith”. It was 1961 and Swami Venkatesananda sent by his legendary guru Swami Sivananda thrilled the some 200 people who attended those lectures.
Prominent Perth architect Fred McCardell and his yoga teacher wife Vera McCardell had already met the Swami and in the 1950's opened in Hay Street in the city The Yoga School of Perth.
They brought to a talk by Swami Venkatesananda, at the University of Western Australia some of their serious students, two of whom Nancy and John (Brownie) Horwood were training with them to become teachers. That night, unbeknownst to these key players, the great tradition of yoga, its philosophy, psychology and practice through its five major pathways (Swami Sivananda’s Yoga of Synthesis) had been planted in these hearts and minds.
Nancy (now Lakshmi) and Brownie Horwood and Lionel Drummond found a premises, 21 John Street North Fremantle, installed a yogi-caretaker and a group of keen yoga students attended satsangs once a week and yoga days once a month and over time restored this derelict, beautiful old home.
From 1961 to 1974 Swami Venkatesananda returned to Perth every three or four years and gave talks and conducted satsang in many venues (including the University) but the ‘ashram’ at John Street became known as the centre of the Integral Yoga Association (integral yoga is another name for yoga of synthesis) and Lakshmi was central to it.
Yoga was taken up and taught during the 60s to the late 70s primarily by women ‘housewives’ who taught from rooms in their homes, at no cost or perhaps with a small donation box.
Lakshmi in those early 60’s had (at Venkatesananda’s suggestion) studied with BKS Iyengar and brought Iyengar Yoga (though it was not called that) to Australia (east and west coast) as she was prominent in the International Yoga Teachers Association (IYTA) the first official body for the teaching of yoga which was based in Sydney.
John Street became an oasis of little known yoga and meditation in Western Australia attracting women and men of all faiths and walks of life, yoga teachers, doctors, hippies and business and trades people who contributed in every way – working on weekends to restore the building, donating money, attending programmes and spreading the word.
“My Gurudev Swami Sivananda often remarked that the spirit of yoga does not interfere with one’s religious faith, life-style or profession. It makes you a better person by introducing you to your constant companion who yet somehow remains a stranger to you – yourself.
“Such self-discovery can lead to greater understanding of fellow beings and therefore to true love. Yoga enthusiasts may proclaim that all this would instantly transform the earth into paradise. A more modest and justifiable aspiration would be that it will enable us to leave the earth a better place than it was before we were born into it.”
From 1974 Swami Venkatesananda was to visit Perth every year and in1976 finally said to Lakshmi (who had been asking for many years) that she could now look for an ashram. With the aid of prominent Perth businessman Bill Hughes she tendered for the premises at 151 South Street Beaconsfield and was successful.
The Sivananda Ashram Beacon Yoga Centre was opened in 1976 by Hon. Deputy Premier. Lakshmi and 12 young people became resident “ashramites” joining and working with so many other volunteers, lovers of yoga -- teaching, working and dedicating themselves to the living legacy that continues to this day, dedicated to awakening the spirit of yoga “the relentless pursuit of truth” from moment to moment in our minds and hearts. All ages, faiths and walks of life converge and carry the beacon in this Beacon Yoga centre Sivananda Ashram.
“The Yoga Centre is the fruit of the concerted efforts of people of all faiths, all walks of life and different age groups. Doctors, architects, businessmen and politicians young and old have contributed in one way or another to its creation. “That is indeed the spirit of yoga.
In the absence of self-knowledge people put on different masks and their life, as different and conflicting personalities, becomes artificial and superficial. By introducing you to yourself it enables you to discover for yourself the true meaning of life and thus enrich every moment of it. Such self-discovery can lead to greater understanding of fellow-beings and therefore to true love. Yoga enthusiasts may proclaim that all this would instantly transform the earth into paradise; a more modest and justifiable aspiration would be – it will enable us to leave the earth a better place than it was before we were born into it."
Such an aspiration was reflected in the plaque that the Hon. Deputy Premier unveiled, with the words “The Beacon Yoga Centre Sivananda Ashram” written on it. The Ashram is located in Beaconsfield, hence the name. Yet it could also be a beacon-light that is literally set on a hill, not so much to attract attention as to announce its presence. They who enter its portals to practise yoga will discover the centre of their own being – the self.
If, by the grace of God and Gurudev this spirit prevails it will continue to be a blessing to all, and will flourish like the banana trees that adorned the entrance.”
Our Building History
In early 1976 we found a somewhat derelict building standing on an acre and a quarter of land on the corner of South and Field Streets, Beaconsfield.
This building was almost 100 years old, having started life as the residence of a prominent family, who’s estate reached from South Street to Lefroy Road and Wood Street to the east side of the Bruce Lee Oval. It was then called Mulberry Tree Farm. In the 30s it was a private hospital, “Grosvenor” owned and administered by Matron Field.
In ’76 the Government owned the building and had been running it as a shelter for disabled and intellectually handicapped. The building had seriously run down when it was put up for tender. The gardens, what there was of them were completely overgrown.
The IYA and Murdoch University tendered the Government for this premises.
When we found we were the lucky tenderers, we joyfully went to inspect the property. We found the gardens covered in wild oats and the inside had a sad and neglected feel. However, with many willing hands the building began it’s journey back. Rooms were painted and the garden tidied up.
In January 1977 Swami Venkatesananda made the first of many visits to the Centre. In a Naming Ceromony the main building was called ‘Sivananda Ashram’, and the teaching wing the ‘Beacon Yoga Centre’ – both under jurisdiction of the Integral Yoga Association.