Before Yogananda came to the United States, he spent four years in India developing what he called “How-to-Live Schools”. In Chapter 27 of his Autobiography of a Yogi, he wrote:” The ideal of an all-sided education for youth had always been close to my heart. I saw clearly the arid results of ordinary instruction, aimed only at the development of body and intellect. Moral and spiritual values, without whose appreciation no man can approach happiness, were yet lacking in the formal curriculum. I determined to found a school where young boys could develop to the full stature of manhood. My first step in that direction was made with seven children at Dihika, a small country site in Bengal.”
When Yogananda came to America in 1920, he brought along his interest in education. The announcement for the opening for his Mt. Washington headquarters stated: “…The main object and desire of Swami Yogananda’ s heart is to have it made possible for him to establish a YOGODA-HOW-TO-LIVE-SCHOOL on Mount Washington for training children along the lines of YOGODA (harmonious development of all human faculties) and SAT-SANGA (Fellowship with Truth), aiming at similar physical, mental and especially spiritual results.” Soon though, it became apparent that American parents were not yet able to appreciate the value of the kind of education he could offer, and his focus shifted toward working with adults.
It was primarily through Yogananda’s effort that the next few decades saw a gradual awakening of interest in the benefits of yoga and meditation. By 1972 another of his original aims and ideals, “to aid in establishing, in many countries, self-sustaining world-brotherhood colonies for plain living and high thinking”, had come to fruition through the work of one of his direct disciples, J. Donald Walters, also known as Swami Kriyananda. Finally, there were enough parents gathered together who would support the establishment of a school based on Yogananda’s ideals.
From the initial school in Nevada City, California, the past 40+ years have seen a gradual spread of this work with the establishment of a network of Education for Life Schools in the United States and Europe. There are currently schools in Palo Alto and Nevada City, California; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Assisi, Italy; and Ljubljana, Slovenia.