New Release: Letters from the Yoga Masters

Posted by – June 07, 2016
Categories: Fitness & Sports New Release

Before there were yoga studios on every block, and before learning yoga stances was as easy as searching Google or watching YouTube tutorials, there was only one way to learn the true techniques of yoga: from the masters. And if you wanted to learn yoga from them, you began by writing a letter.

Dr. Hari Dickman, eager to begin his journey with yoga and learn the ways of the masters, found himself unable to travel all the way to them from his home in pre-World War II Latvia. In order to bridge the distance, he began writing letters.

Dickman’s student, Marion “Mugs” McConnell, has immortalized these important exchanges in Letters from the Yoga Masters. These correspondences, sent over the span of 50 years, are full of valuable yoga philosophy, instruction, and history detailed by some of yoga’s greatest masters. McConnell brings to light these previously unpublished letters, recounting a broad range of yoga theory and techniques from a variety of different paths, as told by hundreds of yogis, including Swami Sivananda, Ramana Maharshi, and Paramhansa Yogananda.

Below is a letter from Marion on the writing of this important collection:

Marion-McConnellFor more than thirty-five years, a large box of letters has moved with me through the phases of my life. This box holds old photocopies of more than 750 letters from over one hundred yoga masters, spanning the years from 1930 to 1979. The letters are grouped into different file folders, each one generally representing the teachings of a particular pathway of yoga, such as siddha yoga, natha yoga, or Sivananda yoga.

These letters were “textbooks” of my teacher, Dr. Hari Dickman, and they became my textbooks when he taught me. Over the years, as Hari advanced in his practice, he wrote to prominent yogis, asking about yogic techniques. The answers varied, depending on the pathway, as each pathway is a science of its own.

At some point in my own practice, two things occurred to me: first, why did so few people know of Dr. Dickman, who was a great yoga master, and second, as Hari’s last disciple, perhaps it was my duty to share the information held in these letters. These thoughts became the impetus behind writing this book.

Had I known what a monstrous task I had embarked on, I never would have taken the first step. When Hari had a question, he asked several yoga masters at once. Their answers would often generate more questions, which would often result in several letters flowing between Hari and each master. More questions on the technique might arise months or years later, as Hari continued his practice. It is important to note here that Hari’s “questions” are rarely seen, as I do not have copies of the letters he wrote. I followed the topics in the letters by looking at the month and year of the initial discussion, and then looked through the files of several other masters who wrote during that year to see if they also had addressed the same topic. It was an important but tedious process. Piecing the material together was like putting together the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I have only touched on the depths of wisdom held within the files. After all, it is one yogi’s lifetime of study.

Few of the yoga masters who wrote these letters are alive today. Therefore, in order to acquire permission to include excerpts from these letters, I needed to contact the heirs of the authors of the letters or those in charge of their ashrams. This has been no small task, and in some cases, it was impossible. It took almost a year to track down and communicate with yogis through email, letters, late-night phone calls to India, and Facebook (yes, even Facebook!). Every effort has been made to honor each and every one of these generous and loving yoga masters, who dedicated so much time to teaching students outside of India.

Through this process, I learned how well Hari is remembered today by those yogis who are still alive, as well as by their students and the students of those yogis who have died, in India, Europe, Argentina, South Africa, and the United States. I am not the only one who loved him; many others have as well, who regarded him as a master of yoga and an equal.

I have met the most amazing people, who have taken such care and given so much time to ensure this book is a beautiful and just representation of Hari and the yoga masters who taught him. When I read this book, I feel my role in its production diminish. If feels as though I was merely the vehicle for the information to arrive on these pages.

I feel honored to have been Hari’s last disciple. I feel honored to be the author of this book. I feel honored to have communicated with so many disciples of the yogis who taught Hari. It is my duty, my dharma, to share this with you.

—Marion (Mugs) McConnell

Tags: Yoga Marion Mugs McConnell

About the Author

Maren began her publishing career as an intern at Counterpoint and Soft Skull Press, where she stayed on for more than four years as a publicist and web coordinator. She joined the NAB team in 2015 and is still stoked about it—she gets to read her Rob Brezsny horoscope (Scorpio)​ before anyone else! Maren lives in Oakland with a monstrous Maine Coon and spends the majority of her spare time convincing him to not eat all of her houseplants. Sometimes she has time to write, paint things, garden, or repair furniture.​