Shortly after independence, Indian Prime Minister Jaraharlal Nehru gave an open invitation to
world's best musicians to tour the newly independent country. In response, Yehudi Menuhin arranged tour India for two months, turning any profit from his concerts over to the Famine Fund for Madras. In 1952, the Menuhins stayed as personal guests of Prime Minster Nehru who shared Yehudi Menuhin’s interest in
yoga. Famously, Nehru made a friendly challenge to Menuhin about his practice and the two were found in headstand as the butler came in to announce dinner. When this story reached the press, “gurus began to queue up wherever [Menuhin] went, each recommended by some prominent patron.” One of these prominent
patrons fetched Iyengar from his home in Poona to visit Menuhin in Bombay.
After warning Iyengar that he only had five minutes in his busy schedule, Iyengar guided Menuhin into
a deep relaxation and awoke not five minutes, but an hour later. At the time Menuhin was suffering from insomnia and this was perhaps the best gift possible. Upon awaking, Menuhin asked Iyengar to demonstrate his art and then enthusiastically requested Iyengar to teach him. During that tour of India he met Ravi Shankar, sitar virtuoso, and eventually persuaded him to perform in the west. Ravi's popularity had significant consequences for both music and vegetarianism in the following decades.
In 1954, Iyengar spent more than six weeks in Gstaad, Switzerland where Menuhin was performing
as Menuhin's personal yoga instructor; this year also included a brief visit to London. This began fifteen years of regular interaction between Iyengar and Menuhin (see photo on the right), Iyengar travelling to Europe to teach Menuhin most summers between 1961-1984 as well as teaching Menuhin whenever he toured
India. During the 1980s Menuhin made jazz recordings with Stephane Grappelli and of Eastern music with the great sitarist Ravi Shankar (see picture of Shankar).
Menuhin's interests outside music were broad. He was known as an environmentalist and practitioner of yoga. He was introduced to yoga in the 1950s and studied with B.K.S. Iyengar, a noted guru. Menuhin's daily regimen included 15 to 20 minutes of standing on his head. He also used yoga to relax before concerts. Menuhin advocated a vegetarian diet and warned of the dangers of eating white rice, white bread, and refined sugar.
Renowned, American born violinist & conductor, Yehudi Menuhin was a vegetarian and committed supporter of many social and environmental causes, with a great interest in Yoga and eastern religion. He
was an anti-pollution activist and vegetarian advocate.
The following extract is by
James Henry Cook, quoted by his daughter Kathleen Keleny in her book:
The First Century of Health