The Messiah of Yog

In two-and-a-half short years, swami ramdev has galvanized the great indian public into turning ardent practitioners of yog and pranayama. in the process, millions are losing weight, healing from various ailments and making a bid for optimum wellness

Sneak into any household in India between 5 and 7 am and chances are good that you will find someone sitting cross-legged in front of the television intently following the instructions of a saffron-clad sanyasi, with dishevelled shoulder length hair, eyes that are just slightly crossed and shoulders that are tilted to one side. As the swami parts the folds of his angavastram, he reveals a sinuous, fit physique and when he practises his trademark kapal bhatti, his stomache subsides into a deep hollow, sharply outlining his ribs. No prizes for guessing the name of the yogi. Could it be anyone other than Swami Ramdev?

Seated before a camp of 20,000 or more participants, the swami punctuates his easy banter with a joke or two, or with a request for a testimony. These are inevitably fulsome, describing either a loss of weight, or recovery from one or the other ailment. Occasionally, he extols the great Vedic heritage of India and urges his followers to adhere to it, or ventures into a fluid narration of kitchen remedies for various disorders. Unsurprisingly, he delivers periodic broadsides against western influence, particularly the use of aerated drinks and junk food.

The camera dwells lovingly on the heavyweights sitting in the front row, who range from politicos such as the chief minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, chief minister of Chattisgarh, Dr Raman Singh, to film star Hema Malini, and business tycoons, Rahul Bajaj and B K Modi.

None of this would be remarkable in itself but for the fact that in less than two-and-a-half years, this innocuous yogi has single-handedly spearheaded a major national revolution in health and general wellbeing through the systematic practice of yog.

Observes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of Art of Living, whose runaway popularity has only been challenged in recent times by Swami Ramdev, "If an individual can be credited with reviving yog in this country, it is solely Swami Ramdev. Yog can cure even fatal diseases and Swami Ramdev has definitely proved it time and again. Swami Ramdev has spread yog to such an extent that sooner or later, one has to embrace it."

Agrees Life Positive columnist and yog teacher Shameem Akhtar, "He is the first person to have popularised yog in India at the mass level."

Adds Santosh Sachdeva, author of books on kundalini, such as the Kundalini Diary, "Every morning when I go for my walk, I see people sitting on benches and practising his anulom vilom and kapal bhatti. Even my physician does it. It's astounding to see how one man has changed human consciousness at such a mass level."

Swami Ramdev is living testimony to the power of one. Throughout history, individuals have been the fulcrum that has shifted society to new eras and paradigms. Whether it is the Buddha, Jesus Christ, Marx or Mahatma Gandhi, each created a revolution in ideas and action. Today, it is the turn of Swami Ramdev to create a watershed in Yog awareness. This 5,000-year-old philosophy and practice has been so far restricted to tiny pockets and organisations and has over the years gained more popularity in the West than in the land of its origin. It was left to Swami Ramdev to explode out of all limitations and bring it within the reach of every man.

Today, there's scarcely anyone in the country who has access to a TV, who is not familiar with his name. Lisps four-year-old Sarika, "I like the way Ramdev uncle pulls his stomach in and moves it like a ball. See I can also do it." She sucks her stomach in and surprisingly, she is good for her age.

Shankaracharya Swami Divyanand of Bhanpura Peeth credits Swami Ramdev's Yog for reducing his obesity. There has even been a camp at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on APJ Abdul Kalam's insistence.

Observes film star Hema Malini, "I have personally benefitted a lot by following Swami Ramdev's Yog. Being a dancer, flexibility is very essential. Regular Yog keeps my body well toned and active. I have experienced great relief in my knee joints. Even my skin is glowing better than ever."

Others extol his virtues lavishly, crossing the frontier of hyperbole. Says Kirit Bhaiji, member of the Tulsi Seva Charitable Trust, "We have not been able to keep our country united, either through food, bhajans, language, religion nor culture. Unity in all aspects is possible only through Shri Ramdev's Yog."

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