by Raissa Mendes: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Beatles visit to India…
As surprising as it may sound, the relationship between The Beatles, yoga and their voyage to India was extremely important and triggered many changes across the globe. The connection between these three topics affected not only an entire generation, but also shaped major changes in modern culture. An event which is surely worthy of a special tribute.
Though yoga originated in India thousands of years ago, it was only in the 20th Century that western society began to have genuine and solid access to this ancient system. The renowned British rock band – The Beatles played a key role in this process and were greatly responsible for the propagation of yoga in the 1960s.
Back to the the Sixties, the music scene and popular culture worldwide were under a huge influence from The Beatles, especially amongst younger people. The media was always interested in the topics the four boys from Liverpool were involved in. With their interest in yoga it was no different – when they showed an inclination towards the eastern spiritual practice, the world simply stopped, listened and followed with intrigue.
It all started in 1968, when the band travelled to Rishikesh, in India. They had been invited to spend time and meditate in the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the leader and guru that developed the Transcendental Meditation technique. During this voyage, being in a peaceful environment away from the spotlights whilst practicing meditation for prolonged periods helped them relax. Meditation broadened their creativity and triggered profound changes in their music.
Evidently, this personal and spiritual journey to India influenced the band’s discography. The Beatles’ stay in Rishikesh not only weaned them from LSD, but also inspired them to write nearly fifty new songs. More than half of these pieces were used in both The White Albumand Abbey Road, including songs like ‘Blackbird’, ‘Dear Prudence’, ‘Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me’, and ‘Sexy Sadie’. Consequently, it was one of the most creative periods in the group’s career.
Only two years after their trip to India, more than five million people were practicing Transcendental Meditation. Undoubtedly, The Beatles were greatly responsible for the massive popularisation of the technique. In fact, by 1970, the western interest in Hindu spirituality reached its peak and words like meditation, mantra and guru were rapidly incorporated across the globe.
The number of yoga practitioners worldwide continues to increase ever since. Nowadays, besides the growing number of local yoga studios, there are many self-practicing video tutorials available to anyone who has access to the Internet. Consequently, every day millions of people practice yoga to improve their mental, physical and spiritual health.
50 years after The Beatles’ stay in India, we look back and celebrate this golden anniversary. The brief sojourn into the East impacted their music and changed society in ways they never expected. The Beatles, yoga and their voyage to India spread knowledge, inspired people and emphasised the power of meditation in the search of harmony, love, inner peace and most importantly, the meaning of life.