Science of Breath


Yogi Ramaharaka’s yoga philosophy classic Science of Breath (1935)

Yogi Ramaharaka’s yoga philosophy classic Science of Breath (1935) translated in to Finnish by Mrs Ruth Serlachius 

The second wife of Gösta Serlachius, Mrs Ruth Serlachius, all her life a searcher and experimentalist, was interested in different forms of spirituality. Along with her friend Gerda Ryti, Ruth started to work as translator and assist Helmi Krohn, an author and editor, who had set out to translate central parapsychological literature into Finnish. Inspired by Krohn, Gerda started to collect a library of her own that Ruth eagerly examined. Enthusiasm of the ladies absorbed also Gerda’s husband, Risto Ryti, the president of Finland (1940–44), who acquired literature during his trips to London. It was a challenge to translate the books because, to begin with, the ladies had to create a Finnish glossary of the terminology of the field.

Translation of the book Science of Breath, Hengittämisen taito in 1935 was an important early phase of yoga landing in Finland. Ruth Serlachius dedicated the translation to ”Young people in Finland in the hope of provoking, also in our circumstances, a keenness of such practices that let human spirit dominate the soul and the body”. Three additional editions of Ruth’s translation were printed in 1938, 1964 and 1972. It seems that her wish has come true because in 2008 Finnish Broadcasting company Yle reported that Finns are the world’s eagerest yoga practitioners.

Yogi Ramacharaka or Ramaharaka is one of the pseudonyms used by William Walker, an American lawyer and a pioneer of New Thought movement. According to some sources, Baba Bharata, a pupil of the original Yogi Ramacharaka introduced Yogi philosophy to Atkinson, and the two men co-authored several yoga philosophy works under the name of their late teacher. Both Bharata and Ramachakara may have been pseudonyms invented to spice up the book with a dash of oriental mystique.

The first published work by pseudonym Ramacharaka, The Hindu-Yogi Science of Breath (1903) tried to teach a western reader ”in a concise form and simple language, the underlying principles of the Yogi Science of Breath, together with many of the favourite Yogi breathing exercises and methods”. The book enjoyed immediately an enormous popularity and new editions of it are still printed.

Hanna Huovinen 

Yogi Ramaharaka's yoga phoilosophic book Science of Breath, 1935
Yogi Ramaharaka’s yoga phoilosophic book Science of Breath, 1935