By Gaurav Sharma
Yoga is one of the profound sciences forming the vast corpus of six orthodox Indian philosophical schools. In recent years the practice has become much popular, particularly in the western world.
So trendy has the ancient science become–that a whole day, June 21st–has been dedicated to the ancient practice by the United Nations.
One of the proponents of Yoga, who has taken the world by storm is RamaKrishna Yadav, more popularly known as Baba Ramdev.
Belonging to a humble background in Mahendragarh, Haryana, Ramdev studied yoga, scriptures and Sanskrit in various gurukuls before adopting the renounced order and metamorphosizing into India’s leading yoga guru.
Soon he established a trust in 1995, before moving onto greener pastures, when Aastha TV, a religious-cum-spiritual channel, started airing Ramdev in its morning yoga slot.
Now when the Indian populace woke up from its slumber, it was seamlessly greeted by Baba’s prietzel postures and rapid huffs and puffs. Having been deprived of precious time, the middle class suddenly found a viable alternative to revitalizing their damaged health.
Gurus, as is the trend in India, come with an unquestionable tag of trust and faith. Virtually no time had passed than the masses started embracing Baba’s unique dance moves, without an iota of doubt as to the credibility of the teaching being bombarded on their minds.
Yoga, like any other science, comes with certain inlaid prescriptions. These have, however, been overlooked by majority of Baba’s practitioners, causing great harm to themselves and the world.
Hatha Yoga–the system of yoga practiced and propounded by Baba Ramdev–involves a progressive series of eight steps, meant for purification of the body and the mind.
Patanjali, the codifier of the Yoga-Sutras, also lays down certain guidelines for ascending the eight-fold ladder of enlightenment.
Before moving on to higher rungs of the ladder, one has to step on the lower ones. Ramdev, however, obviates such a basic yet crucial aspect of Yoga to his followers on television.
For example, it is a well known fact among Yogis, that before practicing Asanas or physical postures, the aspirant has to follow Yama and Niyama, certain ethical and self-disciplining practices.
Where Ramdev transgresses the boundaries of serious yoga practice is when he expounds Pranayama or breathing exercises, the fourth limb of Hatha-Yoga without emphasizing the preceding three vital tenets.
Moreover, the practice of Pranayama itself, is not just limited to senseless, mindless inhalation and exhalation. It is an all-encompassing discipline which involves several injunctions for its safe and efficacious practice.
BKS Iyengar, one of the foremost teachers of Yoga, in his book Light on Yoga mentions certain subtle rules to be followed while practicing Pranayama, regulations which has been totally neglected by Baba Ramdev.
For example, how many of Baba’s followers know that, “While performing Pranayama in sitting posture, the head should hang down from the nape of the neck, the chin should rest on the notch between the collarbones on top of the breast bone” ? (Rule 18, Light on Yoga)
There are many such important maxims, whose neglect on the surface, might seem innocuous, but in the long run can inflict irreparable damage.
Savira Gupta, an instructor at India’s Yogalife center mentions another significant attribute of Yoga practice overlooked by popular modern day Yoga gurus like Ramdev:
“Anatomy is key when you are teaching yoga because everybody has a different body and build. We have to be very careful how we could keep up from one posture to another without injuring them. Everything has to be done according to what your body can handle. With proper alignments and training one can avoid these injuries”, Gupta says.
Dr Ashok Rajgopal, while talking with the Daily Telegraph, also mentions countless cases of yoga followers encountering major bone and joint ailments due to unregulated practice.
“Yoga is wonderful provided it is done in a controlled environment, and people are trained and built up to doing such postures but putting the public at large through these extreme yoga postures can create problems for them”, warns Rajgopal.
Today, with more yoga studios being birthed than ever before, Yoga is selling like hot cakes. This mass popularization has inevitably led to the mushrooming of bogus gurus, who, in an attempt to gain a quick buck and climb the staircase of fame, adulterate the message of Yoga.
It is not that the art of Yoga suffers and assumes a bad name through such crass commercialism, it is just that the people might have to face the music of chronic health problems, when unawareness is exploited by charlatan gurus like Baba Ramdev.