Devendra Hayes – A Bit of My Journey

When I was 17 years old, in high school, I read a book that my brother had, called Youth, Yoga, and Reincarnation, by Jesse Stein, which talked about hatha yoga, with all its physical and spiritual benefits. I found it fascinating, but I thought, “I don’t need this stuff at this stage of my life”, but I knew someday I would, so I logged it away in my memory so I’d know where to find it. Now I knew there was something available, and that something was yoga.

At age 18 I told my dad I was going to Whistler for a year, and then I’d go back to Winnipeg and go to school – but that didn’t happen till I was 30. I was always a seeker, but I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for.

Early 90’s

I had always wanted to go to Hawaii, and when I was 22 I finally did. The plan was to go for six weeks and then go back to Whistler for the ski season. While I was there I took hang gliding lessons, and I cracked and broke my foot. There was no point in going back to Whistler, hobbling around on crutches, so I decided to stay in Hawaii and hang out on the beach.

About a month later, no longer on crutches, I met a fellow who told me about a fantastic yoga class. I told him my back was really bad, and he said this yoga would really help my back. It was Ashtanga Yoga, Pattabhi Jois’ system. I went to those classes six days a week for three months. One day I went into the teacher’s kitchen to get something, and there on the table was a photo of Babaji. When I asked the teacher who that was, he said, “That’s Baba Hari Dass, a real wild yogi who is silent and teaches Ashtanga Yoga” – but the thing I remember is Babaji’s eyes. I never forgot them and I never will.

Early 90’s in Whistler

I went back to Whistler and continued practicing Pattabhi Jois’ system for about 3 months, and then went back to Hawaii one more time for another three months, finally coming home and practicing on my own.

In April of 1983 I was in Vancouver, and saw a poster for the first spring retreat at the Salt Spring Centre with Babaji’s picture on it, and I just knew I was going.

I’ll never forget the first time I met Babaji. I was expecting a procession of people carrying him on a palanquin or something like that, but he just walked in like a regular guy, through the aisle between the men’s and women’s sides of the room, and sat down at the front. It was a five-day intensive. I sat in the front row the entire retreat; I couldn’t take my eyes off Babaji the entire time, madly in love with him then and ever since.

Dad and kids – Rajesh & Mamata, Ramanand & Joah, Devendra & Serena, 1989

In 1989 my family and I moved to Salt Spring. The school building had been moved to the land but it was just a shell at that time – walls and roof. I worked with a few guys -Ramanand, Ramesh Meyers, Om (not Om Prakash – another guy), Darshan and another guy named Patrick, renovating the building, adding stairs, deck and bathrooms.

In 1995 we moved to the Centre as a family. I helped complete the Garden House during the retreat, and then moved into it at the end of August. I ended up staying at the Centre for 2 ½ years, and the kids went to the Centre School.

In the spring of 1999 my family and I moved to the Kootenays, but kept coming to the summer retreat every year. It was always the highlight of my year.

Retreat memories

Rock crew with Babaji – 90’s

Rock wall building: In the early 90’s I started doing rock wall building with Babaji during retreats – always a great time. I remember one year when we started building the front wall of the mound. Mahesh had his bobcat and there was also a backhoe. There were about 30 guys, and there was a lot of noise! One confused retreat participant asked, “What’s going on here? I thought this was a yoga retreat!”

In between rock-wall building and classes with Babaji, I taught power yoga upstairs in the school.

Caught snacking, ’89

When the mountain-fountain was completed, everyone jumped into the water in the fountain. I was up on the scaffolding in front of the Ganesh Temple, which we were working on, and I jumped in wearing my carpenter belt with all my tools. When Babaji climbed up the mountain to plant the flag at the top, we were nervous; after all, he was 80! But of course he was fine!

How did I end up running a small engine repair shop? I was living at Mount Madonna Center in 1985, having done YTT that summer, and was heading back to Vancouver to study massage therapy and be a yoga teacher – and make absolutely no money. When I talked with Babaji he suggested I be a mechanic, which I wasn’t really interested in – until I discovered small engine repair. I realized I could open my own shop and not work for someone else, and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since, in Winlaw, BC, in the Kootenays. It’s been a good life.

Sanatan and Devendra by the Ganges in India, 2009

Devendra at Sri Ram Ashram in 2009 – with marijuana that grows wild all over the place

I became a grandfather in May of 2017. Fortunately my grandson lives on Salt Spring Island with my daughter and my son-in-law, and my son as well. I’m grateful to have a chance to share some of the things I’ve learned in my life with my grandson whenever I see him.

Sadhana has given me a foundation for life. When I started this yoga journey back in 1981, I’d never have predicted I’d still be doing this at almost 60. Pleasure and pain are the same; things don’t perturb me as they used to. It’s just the play of life – and it’s not who we really are.

Jai Babaji

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6 responses to “Devendra Hayes – A Bit of My Journey”

  1. raven hume says:

    Brilliant… thanks so much for Sharing Devendra… So much support here for feeling where where the sweet spot is with Babaji. Looking forward to what he does with us… in Sadhana.

  2. Michelle Smith says:

    So great to hear your story have known parts of it over the years but this filled in some of the gaps. Hope the Kootenays are still treating you well !
    Big alohas,
    Michelle

  3. Rajani Rock says:

    Thanks Boss…..such a good and sweet read with so many memories….glad to have been a part of this experience with you..:) 🙂 May we continue our journey in Sadhana with the blessings of Babaji.
    xo 🙂

  4. Nona says:

    Very nice to hear your story including Whistler and the yoga group
    Thank you for sharing you have always been very pleasant energy

    We visited Ross and Sharon and Julie and we were two weeks in Slocan Camping with my broken wrist and all the smoke and Peter trying to climb I thought of you often Just got back a week ago
    Jai. Good wishes and hugs and wags Peter Nona and Anza

  5. Kishori says:

    Hey Devendra – so great to read your story. SN and I have loved going to visit you in the West Kootnays – so much fun watching you and Sudha – looking forward to having you here on Salt Spring. Upcoming welcome to the 60’s – it just keeps better all the time – even though the body surprises us along the way. Many hugs Dev.

  6. Maheshwar says:

    So great to read your story, many reminders!
    Love and peace,
    Maheshwar

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