Obituary: Diane Hittleman, yoga teacher

Diane Hittleman was a yoga teacher and Buddhist practitioner who helped introduce and popularize hatha yoga in the U.S. in the 1960s.

Lion’s Roar
22 May 2013

Diane Hittleman was a yoga teacher and Buddhist practitioner who helped introduce and popularize hatha yoga in the U.S. in the 1960s. She died last year. Her son Bret wrote this obituary, which we’re pleased to publish.

Diane “Janabai” Harrison, formerly Hittleman, passed in July 2012. She was 82 years old. Born in Pennsylvania, she was valedictorian of her high school class and attended university at Syracuse and Miami. Diane (my mother), along with my father Richard, helped to introduce and popularize hatha yoga in America with their 1960s television show “Yoga for Health,” filmed at KTLA in Los Angeles.

My mother was simply known as “The Beautiful Diane” and never spoke a word on the show, while my father discoursed and had her demonstrate the various asanas. The show, and Richard’s books, were incredibly popular, and they received fan mail from around the world from people of all walks of life, from celebrities and even President John F. Kennedy. She was a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, where she actually got Johnny on the floor and into the Cobra posture. While living in Hollywood, Diane was offered many media opportunities to capitalize on her popularity and fame but she preferred to maintain a modest low profile. She was indeed very beautiful physically as well as spiritually. She was a mother of 4 sons, a Buddhist, an artist, a writer and an adventurer, traveling to and living in many countries around the world in the course of her studies and teaching.

Always a teacher of spiritual subjects and self-improvement, she taught yoga, meditation and “Rebirthing” and worked with Leonard Orr for many years. With my step-father, Don Harrison, she operated an ahsram in the Oakland (Calfornia) hills under the auspices of Swami Muktananda in the 1970s, where thousands of devotees and others came for Satsang when Baba was there.  She was given the Hindu name Janabai by Baba. She loved the Dalai Lama and contributed to many charitable causes. She never accumulated material goods but rather chose to have the minimum number of possessions required for her needs.

In her later years she lived in Thailand, and then Portland, Oregon, and enjoyed a quiet life. Diane passed from this life fully prepared for the next one. After suffering a stroke she was unable to make a comeback and stopped eating — choosing to go out on her own terms. Her ashes were sprinkled in the ocean at Kahala Beach in Hawaii, a place she had lived and loved for many years. She is survived by 4 sons and 5 grandchildren.

The Beautiful Diane — may you rest peacefully in Dharmakaya.

before the beginning
alone – the dead know peace
life is a snowball
turning in the sun
– Nandai

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