Swami Vishnudevananda was the disciple of Swami Sivananda and was the founder of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams. His followers considered him as the authority of Hatha yoga and Raja yoga. He was the author of 'The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga'.
Swami Vishnudevananda was born in Kerala in the Nair family on December 31, 1927. He joined army in his young age but after a short period of service he found the interest in teachings of Swami Sivananda as he read 'Sadhana Tattwa'(Spiritual instructions).Its instructions said : "An ounce of practice is worth tons of theory. Practice yoga, religion and philosophy in daily life and attain self-realization." He was so impressed that he set for Rishikesh and the meeting with Swami Sivananda at the staircase of the ashram leading to Ganga changed the course of his life. Swami Sivananda was ascending the stairs while people were prostrating him according to the custom. Vishnudevananda was a young army officer and did not want to bow his head to anyone. So he hid in a doorway out of sight. A moment later Swami Sivananda appeared before him unexpectedly and prostrated before the arrogant young man. Vishnudevananda felt embarrassed but this was the first lesson taught by his Guruji.
Swami Vishnudevananda entered the Sivannada Ashram in Rishikesh at a very young age of twenty. He took Sannyas (monk hood) and was appointed as the first professor of Hatha Yoga at the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy, and gradually trained numbers of Indian and foreigner students. At the same time he continued with his own practice to master the techniques of Hatha Yoga.Some of the techniques were very ancient and were obscure in modern times. When he was asked about it, he answered, "My Master touched me and opened my eye of intuition. All this knowledge returned to me from past lives." For the next ten years , he stayed and worked under the direct instructions of Swami Sivananda.
There is a story that in the year 1957, Swami Sivananda gave Swami Vishnudevananda ten rupees on his palm and urged him to bring all that he had learned to the western culture of people, by saying "People are waiting."
Swami Vishnudevananda traveled almost all the parts of North America, teaching Yoga and observing the western life style. He was so active and mobile that later in his life he earned the nickname " The Flying Guru". He decided to establish several settlements, chose to begin the process with the foundation of first 'Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center' in Montreal. His first Yoga camp was in 1961 at the summer home of some students who opted for Yoga class and agreed to surrender material comforts, to sleep on the floor and to take cold showers.
In the February of 1962, Swami Vishnudevananda visited the present site of the Yoga camp in Val Morin, Quebec and decided to settle down in the dense forest near the Laurentian Mountains. By the summer, the Sivananda Ashram Yoga Camp opened. The camp began modestly with a few small cottages and tents and after that it has expanded considerably. Now it consists of several temples, guest lodges, a yoga hall, offices, swimming pool and sauna.
In the year 1967, Swami Vishnudevananda established the Sivananda Ashram Yoga retreat in Bahamas. It is situated on the four acres area of tropical Paradise islands. From there a short boat ride is possible to Nassau.
Sivananda Ashram Yoga farm is also situated on 80 acres area in the foothills of Sierra Mountains in California.
The fourth ashram is located in Woodbourne, New York on a 77 acres plot near the Catskill Mountains. It was named as 'Sivananda Yoga Ranch Colony'. It was established with an aim that a colony of families would inhibit it in a Yogic environment.
In India also the asrams were established. In the February of 1978, Swami Vishnudevananda inaugurated the 'Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Dhawanthari Ashram' in Neyyer Sam, near Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. The Asram is located on 10 acres of area in the foothills of Sahyadri Mountains.
In Himalayas also there is an Ashram named as Sivananda Kutir, situated at Netala, near Uttar Kashi. It is situated on the banks of Ganges, where Swami Vishnudevananda's 'Jalasamadhi' took place.
Swami Vishnudevananda had a vision that people running in terror from a giant ball of fire during his meditation at the Nassau Ashram. This inspired him to found T.W.O (True World Order) that aimed at promoting world peace. He founded Sivananda Yoga Teacher Training Course in 1969 with the aim to train the future leaders who will make the responsible citizens of the world in the Yogic disciplines and intended to create a chain of students who would in turn become the Yoga teachers.
On November 9, 1993 Swami Vishnudevananda attained Mahasamadhi. His body was then placed into the Ganges at the Sivananda Kutir and so it was named as 'Jalasamadhi' (sacred drowning) as his abandoned body merged with the water. Swami Vishnudevananda's motto of life was "Health is wealth. Peace of Mind is Happiness."