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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

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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

Next Story

New Study Shows Link Between Meditation And Greater Focus

Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size.

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Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health.

Pranayamic breathing – an important part of yoga and meditation – has a unique ability to strengthen our focus and a new study by Trinity College Dublin has unlocked its secret. The researchers note that pranayamic breathing affects the levels of a natural chemical in the brain called noradrenaline. The latter is released when we are challenged, curious, focused, or emotionally excited. When present at the right levels, noradrenaline helps the brain grow new connections and helps us concentrate better on important tasks.

The old masters were on the right track

The researchers noted: “Practitioners of yoga have claimed for some 2,500 years, that respiration influences the mind. We looked for a neurophysiological link that could help explain these claims.” The researchers did so by measuring breathing, reaction time, and brain activity in a small area in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus, where noradrenaline is made. Noradrenaline is affected by stress; when we are worried or anxious we produce too much, and cannot concentrate. When we feel lazy, on the other hand, we produce too little and once again, focus is lost. One way to boost levels is through yoga; another method which can complement the latter is the consumption of medical grade focus supplements, which contain compounds such as octopamine (which has a similar effect to noradrenaline).

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Conversely, those with lower mindfulness ratings had greater activation of this part of the brain and also felt more pain. Pixabay

Pranayamic breathing aces the right balance

In the above study, researchers noted that brain activity in the part of the brain where noradrenaline is produced raises slightly when we inhale and drops slightly as we exhale. Thus, balance is achieved and we can focus on what we have set out to do. Pranayama not only boosts concentration but also produces “changes in arousal, attention, and emotional control that can be of great benefit to the meditator.”

What is Pranayamic breathing?

Pranayamic breathing involves controlling and extending breath, with a view to manipulating your vital energy, battling stress, and improving your mood. It is often used in meditation and yoga and interestingly, many yoga experts rank pranayama as even more important than asanas (the postures performed in a yoga session). In yogic tradition, breath is said to carry a person’s life force. Interestingly, scientific studies back this assertion to the extent that pranayamic breathing is able to boost brain function and change the actual structure of the brain. In recent studies, pranayamic breathing has been found to lower or stabilize blood pressure, lower stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.

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In order to comprehend better the Indian seers constructed the special “BOAT” – named Yoga/Meditation.

Implications of the study for aging

The researchers are excited that their findings could signal a way to prevent brain aging. They stated that if brains typically lose mass as we age, practices such as pranayamic breathing greatly reduce the rate of brain shrinkage, thus potentially helping keep dementia and related diseases at bay. Because keeping noradrenaline levels at an optimal level can help the brain grow new connections, meditation is an ideal activity to pursue.

Pranayamic breathing is just one way to improve brain health. Supplementation, a healthy diet, and daily exercise are key, with recent studies showing that aerobic exercise also increases brain size. To make the most of the effect of breathing on focus, consider joining a yoga class or learning the essence of pranayamic breathing online or through an app like Prana Breath or Universal Breathing.