DEREK OSBORN / Swami Shantananda Brahmendra Avadhuta
M Soc Sci,
BSc, British Wheel of Yoga Teachers` Diploma, London Univ Teacher`s Certificate,
Register of Exercise Professionals (Level 3), Life Member of The Indian Academy of Yoga
or Shiv Giri (his given initiated name) has been described as `one of the most experienced yoga teachers in the country`.
His own experience of yoga began in 1952 and since 1969 he has taught almost all styles of yoga from gentle to the
most strong and powerful forms, to all levels of ability. His teaching has included regular weekly classes
in Shropshire for over thirty years, in addition to seminars and teacher training workshops over wide areas of England
and Wales. He has worked with residential groups in the Dordogne, south of France, and in an ashram in
Tamil Nadu, southern India.
Over the years he has studied
and worked with leading teachers and representatives of the principle schools of yoga from around the world, and it is the
wisdom and inspiration from these teachers that colours his own teaching approach. In the 1990s working
in conjunction with the American former dancer and choreographer Budd Thompson, he helped to develop the system of Bodylife
which uses all styles of yoga but with additional elements from other traditions ancient and modern.
As a former biologist he has brought to his yoga teaching a background knowledge of the physical and physiological
workings of the body. He believes that age per se is no barrier to achievement and encourages students
of all ages to explore their own limits. The miracle of yoga often sees students with apparently incurable
conditions literally restored to new health and activity.
An interest in philosophy and spiritual aspects of the human mind has taken his yoga beyond that of a purely
physical workout regime. Although his teaching is not limited by religion he does acknowledge the Hindu
basis of much yoga teaching known as the `sanatan dharma` - the eternal truths. It was as a result of his
searching and travelling in India, the home of yoga, that he met and was initiated by his guru as a baba (monk) of the Giri
order of renunciates.
The aim of yoga is to achieve unity or
wholeness within the individual and the world beyond. Derek`s classes cover all aspects of yoga including
the lifestyle disciplines, exercises for flexibility, strength and stamina, breath control, relaxation, and mental techniques
to bring about a sense of wellbeing and Self awareness.
With many years of practical involvement in yoga Derek is able to offer students of all levels of ability and experience
a chance to develop and further their own journey along the path of yoga.
A Brief Autobiography. I was born
in 1941 in Derbyshire, England. From a very early age (perhaps 2- 3 years old) I was aware of `something else` beyond usual
conscious life. I always felt an affinity to nature, to solitude and peace.
I started my own `yoga sadhana`
in or about 1952 when I came across Paul Brunton`s book `In Search of Secret India`, and soon after that `Naked They Pray`
by Pearce Gervis. Yoga has been a central feature of my life ever since. Always there has been the balance between the
physical, mental and spiritual aspects of yoga, sanatan dharma.
I began yoga teaching in 1969, in Yorkshire, England,
and since then have taught regular weekly classes, as well as workshops in many parts of England, and at the ashram I stay
at in India. I have been interviewed on radio several times, appeared on TV teaching yoga, and had numerous articles published
in the yoga press.
In the years since my first pilgrimage to India in 2000 I have been increasingly attracted to
the spiritual aims of yoga and Hinduism. As a result of a vision following that pilgrimage to the source of the river
Ganges I have realised an aim in life to plant enough trees in the world to green a mountain side before my samadhi. For this
reason any fees paid to me for yoga workshops, anywhere in the world, are donated to tree planting charities. With your
help I can do that.
Social Research, Birmingham University
and Zoology, London University
Teacher`s Certificate, Goldsmiths College, Uni of London
British Wheel of Yoga: Teacher`s
Register of Exercise Professionals Level 3
ITEC Cert (Massage Therapy)
In 2000 I was initiated into the brotherhood of Naga Babas in Rishikesh, and given the
new title of Swami SHIV GIRI Baba by my guru, Mahesh Giri.
In 2011 I was elected a Life Member of The Indian
Academy of Yoga, Varanasi.
New Name? Why?
many years now I have been increasingly drawn towards the traditions of south India particularly Tamil Nadu, and the Dravidian
culture that is still alive there. Much of the tradition and practice of yoga as we know it in the west
is the result of early western students being exposed to north Indian teaching. While there is a lot of
common ground there are certainly some distinct differences.
My original diksha
by my guru in Rishikesh, Guruji Mahesh GIri, has provided me with a basis and guidelines for my life since 2000CE.
At that time by bathing in the river Ganges I washed away my old life, I donned the ochre robe and langouti of the
naga baba. I was given my string and rudraksha seed (my genou), my rudraksha mala and a no-return stone
mala, my secret mantra and my new name of Mahesh Giri. The Giri sect is one of the ancient orders established
by Shankaracharya (8thCE). From there I travelled on to the source of the Ganges receiving darshan (experience
and the vision) of Lord Shiva. For a year or two I maintained contact with Guruji but eventually we lost
contact. He is a wandering sadhu of no fixed address or close contact with a sect or order.
came into contact with Swami Pranavananda two or three years after my diksha and visited his ashram in 2003 and in 2005.
Before the last visit we had discussed the possibility of him giving my diksha into his parampara (lineage) but circumstances
were not conducive to that happening. However my more recent visit in spring 2013 was the right time, ten
long years after the first intention and a good indication of the time which can test intentions.
Like my first
guru, Swami Pranavananda is not tightly bound to a strict order of monks. He is a man who lives and works
in the world for the good of others. As an avadhut and advaitist he is not bound by ritual and conventions,
while at the same time recognising their value and appropriateness in the right circumstances and for the right reasons.
He draws his inspiration from another even earlier teacher, Dattatreya, author of the Avadhuta Gita.
avadhuts are said to be those who have renounced all attachments to the world. In former times they roamed
the subcontinent of India with no material possions and naked. In more recent times initiates
have been allowed to wear clothes to fit in with the society in which they find themselves; not for convention but rather
to avoid distancing themselves from others.
The parampara of which Swami Pranavananda is a link dates back in a direct
line to the 16/17th century and Sadashiva who was both a saint and one of the great poet musicians of south India
whose compositions are still highly regarded.
The ritual of diksha or initiation takes many forms among the various
orders of sannyasins and monks. The essential features are those of a simple gift to the guru which symbolises
the yearning of the shisya for acceptance into his guru`s care. The role of a guru is not an idle acceptance,
he has as much responsibility to his disciples as they have to him. In my case I Had been waiting for this
occasion for just over ten years. Guruji consulted an astrologer to decide on the most appropriate time
during my stay at the kudhil. In the event it was to be before 10am or after 2.00pm on my last full day-
March 9, 2013, and the diksha took place at 2.30pm. A plate with boiled rice was prepared with offerings
of fruit, a leaf etc was used. Guruji offered my items from the plate which I then returned to him.
He then gave me bananas and coconut . I wrote my new given name – Shantananda – in the
cooked rice, and Guruji completed the ceremony with giving of a clean cloth as I was accepted into his parampara with my new
full name of
Swami Shantananda Brahmendra Avadhuta.
The rules of conduct and life for the avadhut - -
Be in the world
Be independent of the world
Welcome anyone as a
guest, as God
Help anyone or anything at whatever level is possible
hurting anyone or anything
Avoid lying or stealing
Do not ask for gifts or money
your Self, everybody and everything.