Jun 18, 2008

Ramdev, yoga and other things

Though it is none of my business to comment on others teaching yoga, Baba Ramdev is not just another yoga guru.

Baba sometimes takes on politicians, MNCs, western system of medicine, godmen and other institutions who, he believes, are harming the society by either dishing out half-truths or polluting minds or shortchanging gullible people. Now, you can say, his hypotheses are not always valid and his diatribe not often dispassionate. Agreed, but what is disarming about this man is his purpose and his methods.

His sincerity of purpose and purpose per se immediately appeals to the masses, and even cynical guys tend to ignore his extreme postures [eg. calling cold drinks as toilet cleaner] or seeking money to build massive yoga research infrastructure: that is, to spread yoga for well being; to tell people to care for their body, their parents, their children, their nation; to tell his evangels to lead by example; to convince people that they don’t always need money and sophisticated medical facilities for preventing and curing chronic health problems – mostly lifestyle diseases. He gives hope and self-confidence [and it works more than mere yogic asanas and pranayams] to people who have been frustrated by the ‘modern systems of medicine’]. He channelizes youth energy into constructive action. In fact, if anybody has had strong mass following after Mahatma Gandhi, it is Baba Ramdev.

His method of teaching yoga to the masses has been simple. No unnecessary, difficult exercises; no boredom in his yoga camps and their subsequent telecasts [he enlivens it with witty comments and side-tips]; not much religious preaching and mystic connections of yoga with Hinduism. [He could make it more ‘secular’ as a large number of non-Hindus participate in his camps and some sensitive ones might take exception to his reference to Hindu deities, chanting Hindu prayers, telling about the mind-purifying and spiritual effects of pranayam and so on. However, India’s majority religion being Hinduism, small references to Hindu icons helps him immensely in binding with the masses. ]; talking to people in their own language; letting people from the audience narrate their experiences.

Baba has introduced common-sense approach to yogic asanas and pranayams. You need not be straight jacketed in doing yogic exercises, and should do them according to your power of endurance which in turn depends on your age, sex, overall health, working of various organs, mental health, location, weather and climate, profession, work schedules, and so on. Again, he very sanely advises that the general public should not attempt difficult asanas or carry out pranayams for unduly long duration.

One hopes, Baba Ramdev does not succumb to temptations and does not fail to see the traps on his way. He is revered by powerful politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen and has as such become a cult figure, and may be tempted to take a leading political role. He may unknowingly become a godman. Any leaning towards a political party or patronizing a crook-in-the-garb-of-an-honest-man, taking a wrong [even if not deliberate] stand on a particular social norm, ignoring transparency and accountability in handling the huge sums he is accumulating for his dream research project have the potential to greatly harm him, his movement and the cause of yoga. Hope, he remains above all such failings.