Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Biography & Teachings Of Spiritual Leader & Humanitarian

From studying with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to founding The Art Of Living Foundation, find out what moves the man


If you’re searching for a yoga lesson that offers peace, self-development, and enlightenment, then consider the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, aka Gurudev.

His philosophy is not just about practicing complex twisting yoga postures in a yoga studio. Instead, his teachings untangle any knots and binds that settle in our minds and spirts.

Prepare to embark on a journey through the life of this spiritual visionary and uncover his simple yet profound teachings that can elevate your yoga practice. In this article, we will take a closer look at the following:

Who is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & His Origins

Ravi Shankar was born in 1956 in South India. He was destined to become a guiding yoga luminary. At a very young age, four to be exact, he was already reciting parts of the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Indian text.

Young Ravi had a hunger for knowledge. His intellect led him to indulge his curiosity about the inner workings of the mind. He was fortunate enough to obtain the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who guided Ravi to explore deeper into the mysteries of meditation and spirituality.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the creator of Transcendental Meditation. Famously known for being the yogi and guru to The Beatles, he taught the importance of inner calmness. He strived to bring the understanding and practice of meditation to everyone, no matter their background.

With this astounding tutelage, Ravi now had the foundation upon which he would later build his future empire of peace.

Ravi Shankar diligently studied the Vedic texts and later became a well-known scholar in its teachings. His education also focused on physics; he wanted to merge science with his spiritual insights.

Through a devoted silent meditative practice and the guidance of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, he answered the call to share his personal findings with others by becoming a teacher of yogic philosophy and meditation.

Although Ravi Shankar had humble beginnings, he was able to reach a multitude with his lessons. He first began teaching to very small groups. He expanded his reach, though, and was soon speaking to thousands.

His profound message of love and inner peace resonated with so many that it touched people of all cultures and backgrounds all over the world. The Art of Living Foundation, which he established in 1981, became the vessel for this global movement.

As he continued to grow and learn, Ravi Shankar emerged as a spiritual leader. He respectfully earned the title, ‘Sri,’ which is a title of honor. And due to his complete devotion, ‘Sri’ was bestowed upon him twice signifying a double honor.

His students not only saw him as a teacher but as a humanitarian and a beacon of wisdom. Thus, ‘Sri Sri’ was born.

Core Philosophy & Teachings

Sri Sri’s philosophy is rooted in the ancient Indian concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam“the world is one family.” He teaches that love and wisdom can triumph over strife and sorrow. His unique blend of spiritual insights and practical wisdom attracts people from all walks of life.

When Shankar founded The Art of Living Foundation, he built it upon these five core tenets:

  • Celebrate Life: Find joy and celebration in every aspect of life.
  • Respect All: Respect and value every individual regardless of their background, beliefs, or differences.
  • Have a Reverence for Knowledge: Pursue knowledge and wisdom. Engage in lifelong learning and develop a deep respect for wisdom in all its forms.
  • Take Responsibility: Be accountable and take responsibility for your actions, decisions, and how they impact the world. Be proactive when approaching problem-solving and making positive changes.
  • Radiate Service: Contribute to the well-being of society and make a positive difference through acts of kindness and service.

These tenets helped form the foundation of The Art of Living’s teachings and practices. The foundation’s lessons are intended to guide individuals toward a more balanced, compassionate, and purposeful life.

The Art of Living Foundation: Teachings & Benefits

The most revered teaching in The Art of Living program is the Sudarshan Kriya. This is a powerful breathing technique that harnesses the breath’s rhythm to quiet the mind and release stress.

The rhythmic breathing of this kriya consists of a series of specific breath cycles. Each has its own unique rhythm, and count. The cycles alternate between various types of breathing including slow, medium, and fast-paced breathing patterns.

The breathing practice encompasses the following benefits:

  • Stress Reduction: Controlled breathing patterns help calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and release accumulated stress throughout the body.
  • Emotional Healing: Practitioners report that the consistent practice of this kriya contributes to emotional release and healing. It helps one process and let go of negative emotions, leading to improved emotional well-being.
  • Enhanced Clarity & Focus: A regular practice enhances mental clarity and concentration. Through breath regulation, it helps individuals achieve a more balanced and focused state of mind.
  • Increased Energy: The alternate breathing patterns stimulate the body’s energy centers. It helps the practitioner feel more invigorated and refreshed.
  • Mind-Body Connection: The Sudarshan Kriya emphasizes the connection between the breath and one’s state of mind. It encourages one to be more aware of their breath and how it can influence their mental and emotional states.
  • Holistic Well-Being: The kriya lastly is intended to promote not only the physical aspects of health, but also the mental and emotional aspects. Therefore, as a holistic approach, participants receive guidance in these sessions to integrate them into their daily lives.

The foundation promotes a holistic approach to well-being, combining yoga, meditation, and knowledge. It’s not just about personal peace; it’s about uplifting communities through service and love.

Sri Sri advocates a yoga that transcends the physical. It’s a yoga of the heart and mind, as much as the body. His teachings emphasize the synthesis of yoga and meditation with selfless service. The idea is to not just perfect the pose but to embody the compassion and serenity that yoga represents.

His style is inclusive, accessible to the novice, and enlightening for the adept. It’s about finding joy in the movement and stillness alike, leading to profound inner transformation.

Some standing postures one may practice in a yoga class at The Art of Living Foundation will include:

  • Warrior I: A standing yoga pose where one leg is forward with the knee bent, the other leg is extended back, and the arms are raised overhead with palms facing each other.
  • Tree Pose: A balancing pose where one foot is placed on the inner thigh of the opposite leg, with hands pressed together in a prayer position at the heart center or raised above the head.
  • Chair Pose: A standing pose that mimics the position of sitting in a chair, where the knees are bent, thighs are parallel to the floor, and arms are extended overhead.

My Personal Connection to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

As a practicing yogi and yoga instructor, I was intrigued by the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. What moved me the most was his dedication to making yoga inclusive. As he formed the Art Of Living Foundation, he had in mind delivering his message to all people regardless of their background.

I resonate with this vision; although I teach Power Yoga, a practice that may be intimidating to some practitioners, I do my best to make my classes as inclusive as possible. My style of teaching yoga involves a slow progression of adding yoga postures to the vinyasa flow. I provide detailed instructions to ensure the safety and benefit of my students.

My classes aren’t always about practicing the perfect yoga pose or sequence. Like Sri Sri, my intention is for those to experience a deeper part of themselves.

The breath work and yoga flow sequences are designed to help students gain a better connection to themselves; to evolve and experience the more subtle parts of themselves.

The goal is for all to see their inner truth, authenticity, and greatest potential. I believe that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would agree with this approach to the yoga practice.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s journey is a testament to the transformative power of spiritual pursuit. In his teachings, there’s a resonating message that inner peace is the cornerstone of world peace.

As a yoga teacher, I can certainly relate to his teachings. His biography and teachings have inspired me to be more mindful and inclusive as I deliver my sessions.

Perhaps you have been inspired, too. Although you may not find Art of Living classes in your local yoga studio, you can find a vast array of offerings through their website.

The Art of Living offers a wide range of classes, including advanced meditation retreats and introductory sessions. For the sincere seeker, Ravi Shankar’s writings and seminars are veritable gold mines of wisdom.

Engaging in the foundation’s global activities, which range from environmental projects to conflict resolution, is a great way to genuinely connect with his mission. It involves putting philosophy into practice and observing the good deeds that spread.

But remember the general teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar when you take other yoga programs. They will help you on your path to enlightenment, self-improvement, and peace since they are global.

For more stories about yoga gurus like Sri Sr Ravi Shankar, please visit our library of articles that will enrich your personal yoga practice.

Photo of author
John Cottrell is an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher and Certified Yoga Therapist residing in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.