Yoga in Australia 1966

Article is dated Friday April 15th 1966 by Samela Harris “The News”, Adelaide
Bette Calman shares about the first yoga week seminar in NSW Australia.

They feel the power of yoga…

Mrs Bette Calman has just come back from the peak of Mount Crackenback, in the Snowy Mountains where they meditated at dawn.

It’s so cold up there but Mrs Calman didn’t feel the cold.
She felt instead the power of yoga.  She was one of 17 Australian women who enjoyed the physical + spiritual experience on the mountain peak as part of the activities in Australia’s yoga seminar held at Thredbo.

On one occasion the women stood on their heads on top of Mount Kosciusko!  The week-long seminar include exercise and mediation.

Fruit, nuts

The women also ate fruit, nuts and vegetables and listened to a seven hour tape from a swami in South Africa on the poses of relaxation or the ‘death pose’.  It was the nearest thing they could get to an ashram, which is a yoga term for a retreat.
It is conducted in the Himalayas by swamis, to whom students may go to meditate and study.

A swami is a very advanced yogi who teaches others.  In Australia, Mrs. Calman would be in the swami category.

Mrs. Calman who is the wife of a retired Adelaide publican, eats a pound of honey a day.
“At the seminar, they called me Queen Bee” she confessed.

The women went through 14lb of honey in the first five days of their ashram.

The y also ate “all the right things”  which includes  sunflower seeds,  lean meat, salads, unsalted nuts, figs, fresh fruit, dates, cheese and a drink called dhu, made from yoghurt, iced water and mint.


Mrs. Calman, ho has been practising yoga for more than eight years, said the seminar indicated it’s increasing interest in Australia.
“Australia is really oozing yoga at present” she said.  “It’s become big business”

In Adelaide, Mrs. Calman has more than 500 students ranging from 3 – 75 years learning yoga in her classes.

“Yoga can help everyone” she said.  “It gives self-development, self-mastery and self-reliance”.  “It gives a combination of a healthy body and balanced mind and can improve the circulation and bring pressure on almost every gland in the body”.

Mrs. Calman said yoga was not hard.  “It is practised by people of all ages, from almost every walk of life” she said.

People like Robert Helpbmann and Yehudi Menuhin have been practitioners of yoga for years.  But the average Australian is still a bit shy.   Six years ago they would have laughed at the idea.

Now they are starting to show interest.

Businessmen who do it think it is wonderful.
But they have not quite got around to bragging about it at the club yet.

*Picture shows Mrs. Bette Calman and her three year old daughter Susanne demonstrating the forward stretch – designed to limber the spine and joints.
As I read this article I realized how far yoga has come since the 50’s when it was first introduced to Australia in Sydney by Michael Volin.
In 2016 Yoga is really big business in a way that I don’t think the first trailblazers of yoga could have ever foreseen.

I laugh at the descriptions by the writer of what food they ate whilst at this seminar and today these foods are considered standard fare and some probably wouldn’t make it onto a retreat menu!

My overwhelming thought was how much did yoga play in the self-empowerment of women in Australia? 

In the 60’s  women began to try this ‘new’ exercise regime and they donned black leotards and fishnet stockings for a regular class that made them feel better.   They didn’t know or understand the finer details of yoga all they knew is that they felt good after class!

How many women’s lives were changed by going to a ‘yoga class’ in the 60’s? 

As modern yogini’s do we really understand just how big it was for women to go to a yoga class?  How many had husbands or mother’s making snide comments in the hope that it would stop them from rocking the boat and disrupting the status quo?

In the 60’s and 70’s women outnumbered men in a yoga class in Australia and today it still may be a woman’s domain but more men are teaching and attending classes.

At my school the nun’s called my mother a witch!  Some of my friends at school weren’t allowed to come to my house in case my mother ‘bewitched them’

Fast forward to today yoga has become the norm…  no-one blinks an eyelid when you tell them your at yoga or are heading off to a retreat in some exotic location.

It is on these women’s shoulders we stand as yogi’s + yoginis…  and it’s lovely to reflect back on the beginning of the yoga journey in Australia.