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Baba Ramdev’s Yoga: Insulting the art of living by doing more harm than good to health

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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.

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  • Bijoy lakshmi das

    All Yoga practices must be done under strict supervision of an experienced Master otherwise it will give rise to serious ailments in various forms which will be incurable in the long run.Each one’s physique is unique and different from the other, therefore Pranayama and Yoga must be taught accordingly with utmost precautions.It is not a short-cut procedure like teaching in seven days and make the body rid of incurable diseases. Even a long practice of the hectic procedure of Pranayama in vogue to-day has much adverse effects as has been experienced by many now-a-days.

    • preeti

      Pls help i am doing yoga for 3-4 days in a yoga class recently join, from the first day i notice my heart rate is little bit faster then before and i am unable to sleep .i couldn’t get enough sleep as i sleep only 3-4 hours in 24 hours . I performed sun salute for my own at my home i feel active all the day but why sleepless ,i feel some internal change like anger and emotional helplessness .What should i do pls tell me if i continue my practice or stop it .Thanks

  • preeti verma

    I am doing yoga for 3-4 days under a yoga class from the very first day my heart rate becomes little bit faster then before and i am sleepless during night i am hardly taking 3-4 hours nap in 24 hours .I performed sun salute from my own at my home but i never face this problem pls tell me if i continue my practice or stop it .I am worried pls help anybody. Thanks

  • Bijoy lakshmi das

    All Yoga practices must be done under strict supervision of an experienced Master otherwise it will give rise to serious ailments in various forms which will be incurable in the long run.Each one’s physique is unique and different from the other, therefore Pranayama and Yoga must be taught accordingly with utmost precautions.It is not a short-cut procedure like teaching in seven days and make the body rid of incurable diseases. Even a long practice of the hectic procedure of Pranayama in vogue to-day has much adverse effects as has been experienced by many now-a-days.

    • preeti

      Pls help i am doing yoga for 3-4 days in a yoga class recently join, from the first day i notice my heart rate is little bit faster then before and i am unable to sleep .i couldn’t get enough sleep as i sleep only 3-4 hours in 24 hours . I performed sun salute for my own at my home i feel active all the day but why sleepless ,i feel some internal change like anger and emotional helplessness .What should i do pls tell me if i continue my practice or stop it .Thanks

  • preeti verma

    I am doing yoga for 3-4 days under a yoga class from the very first day my heart rate becomes little bit faster then before and i am sleepless during night i am hardly taking 3-4 hours nap in 24 hours .I performed sun salute from my own at my home but i never face this problem pls tell me if i continue my practice or stop it .I am worried pls help anybody. Thanks

Next Story

Yoga Face-toning May Compete With Fillers, Face-lifts

"The jury is still out on whether or not facial yoga is effective in reversing the signs of aging," he said in an email.

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Yoga face toning is an effective way of reducing the signs of ageing. VOA
  • Yoga face toning may take over botox and face lifting procedures.
  • 27 participants noted changes in their faces after weeks of this experiment.
  • It is still a matter of discussion if this method can reverse ageing or not.

In his toolbox of Botox, fillers and plastic surgery, cosmetic dermatologist Dr Murad Alam has added a new, low-cost, noninvasive anti-ageing treatment: facial yoga.

Dermatologists measured improvements in the appearance of the faces of a small group of middle-aged women after they did half an hour of daily face-toning exercises for eight weeks, followed by alternate-day exercises for another 12 weeks.

Facial exercises are healthier than surgeries. Pixabay
Facial exercises are healthier than surgeries. Pixabay

The results surprised lead author Alam, vice chair and professor of dermatology at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“In fact, the results were stronger than I expected,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s really a win-win for patients.”

Participants included 27 women between 40 and 65, though only 16 completed the full course. It began with two 90-minute muscle-resistant facial exercise-training sessions led by co-author Gary Sikorski of Happy Face Yoga in Providence, Rhode Island.

Participants learned to perform cheek pushups and eye-bag removers, among other exercises. Then they practised at home.

Improvements noted

Dermatologists looking at unmarked before-and-after photos saw improvements in upper cheek and lower cheek fullness, and they estimated the average age of women who stuck with the program as significantly younger at the end than at the start.

Face yoga is a healthier substitute to surgical procedures. Pixabay
Face yoga is a healthier substitute for surgical procedures. Pixabay

The average estimated age dropped almost three years, from nearly 51 years to 48 years.

Participants also rated themselves as more satisfied with the appearance of their faces at the study’s end, Alam and colleagues reported in JAMA Dermatology.

“Now there is some evidence that facial exercises may improve facial appearance and reduce some visible signs of ageing,” Alam said. “Assuming the findings are confirmed in a larger study, individuals now have a low-cost, non-toxic way of looking younger or augmenting other cosmetic or anti-ageing treatments they may be seeking.”

The exercises enlarge and strengthen facial muscles to firm and tone the face, giving it a younger appearance, he said.

Happy Face sells instructional worksheets — promising smoother skin, firmed cheeks and raised eyelids — for $19.95. DVDs cost $24.95.

Some skepticism

But not all dermatologists are rushing to promote the videos or the exercises.

Dr John Chi, a plastic surgeon and professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, said the study raises more questions than it answers.

“The jury is still out on whether or not facial yoga is effective in reversing the signs of ageing,” he said in an email.

Chi, who was not involved with the study, said he would recommend facial yoga to patients who found it relaxing and enjoyable but not for the purpose of facial rejuvenation.

“While the premise of facial exercises to improve the facial appearance or reverse signs of ageing is an appealing one, there is little evidence to suggest that there is any benefit in this regard,” he said.

Chi said facial yoga had not been rigorously examined in peer-reviewed scientific studies. Asked whether procedures such as face-lifts, Botox and fillers had been rigorously examined in peer-reviewed studies, he replied: “Great question. Attempts to do so have been made in the scientific literature with variable levels of scientific rigour.”

Alam agrees that his study raises additional research questions, such as whether the exercises would work for men and how much time people need to commit to doing the exercises for them to be optimally effective. He would like to see a larger study. VOA