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“Swami Ramdev”: An encounter with Yoga Guru, his disciples inside the Patanjali Empire

The Swami who started his journey from Haridwar on a cycle has now chosen the vehicle of choice to galore his aspirations

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Baba Ramdev and PM Narendra Modi. Wikimedia
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August 17, 2016: It was in 2006 when I first met Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev. He was in the D-block of Patanjali Phase-1 ashram in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. The ashram was commissioned in the same year and Swami Ramdev was in a hurry. His Yoga exposure was touching the sky and his fellow Acharya Balkrishna was fully engaged with Ayurveda with a back support of their third trusted ‘classmate’ Swami Muktanand. This trio has a distinct combination. One is from Haryana, another is born in Haridwar and the third one belongs to West Bengal. Swami Muktanand is one of a hidden gem, who never talks to outsiders.

Today for Ramdev, the prefix of Swami/ Baba has gone behind when the saint sat in Ramlila Maidan and showed his political interest in full glow. Ramdev’s presence in media has given him enough perception power to garner or fetch desirable results. The Swami who started his journey from Haridwar on a cycle has now chosen the vehicle of choice to galore his aspirations. Ramdev was a skilful seller, in the start he convinced a Delhi-based businessman to give him a rational amount to make some medicines for Northeast states. This was the first deal.

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Swami Ramdev never hides his muscles. He can walk fast in his khadua (wooden sandals) and he still sleeps in his 10×10 room without AC. He uses strictly Indian brands of mobile phone, cars, SUV and only drinks Indian mineral water, especially when he is outside. He was literally without water for hours in Vietnam, I offered him a foreign brand mineral water and he told me it’s a foreign brand. He may forget the taste of rice and pulses because he eats fruits and milk only. His life has many dimensions, he wakes up at 4am and does yoga for two to three hours, in the starting he himself sat for hours to edit his TV shows; he is like a curious child to learn any new things and he never shy of his ignorance. Once he recites a sloka to me, which is 15 minutes long. His memory is sharp and never forgets names. He never shies to talk to ‘anyone’ in front of you.

Patanjali Yogpeeth. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Patanjali Yogpeeth. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

The acumen and vision of Swami Ramdev that has started with the aspiration to control powers in every stream is phenomenal. When the whole world has seen his transition from Sanskar & Aastha to many News Channels, he strategically bought both channels to control the religious landscape. This was a sharp move, though the lesser-known fact is that he also bought a Jain religious channel Arihant in the bouquet. He rechristened the group as Vedic Broadcasting. This move has given him a big edge. It’s a known fact that the revenue of these religious channels comes from the saints and their Katha organisers. Now Swami Ramdev is a power player, who is also cajoling with the business community, who is somehow functional to many religious events. His name becomes synonymous with Yoga and subconsciously for religion and spirituality.

Swami Ramdev knows politics. It always boosts his goals. When Vrinda Karat raises the issue of human bone in his medicines and later a medicine named, Putrajeevak, raised eyebrows, he beautifully narrates his point and garners a proper interest in the medium class. His fights with celebrities always make him more big and boastful. His art to navigate political boats, take him too many and finally make him a loyal supporter of the current government.  Swami Ramdev openly told many times in past that he has inclinations towards politics. Even he planned to launch a political party, but later he understands the fire and its bruises.

It’s an open fact that Swami Ramdev was not very loved in the religious city of Haridwar, his ashram is also on the outskirts.  The way he has become a phenomenon was always seen as a gimmick. Even the biggest name of Yoga, BKS Iyengar was never fond of his practices. He has serious differences on Kapalbhati. He lamented that “his selling of Kapalbhati is corrupting Patanjali’s Yoga”.  But today Patanjali is synonymous with the brand Baba has created.

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When one meets Acharya Balkrishna, he offers a lot of things to eat. All are prepared in his factories and are ayurvedic. Balkrishna is fond of physical exercise and has a keen eye for details.  He loves to travel and he spends a lot of time in the Himalayas. His passion of Ayurveda can amaze you, but he loves control. His special bonding with Swami Ramdev grows because of the mutual trust and understanding of the goals, they both designed long back.

Swami Ramdev was the right person at the right time. His mission has synced with the nationalistic feelings of the dispensation. His vision is to become a dominant brand with the national presence of pride. His nationalistic aspirations today make him a new avatar of bharat putra. In few years he may dance on his music, but his real test was when he beat the odds and become a non-politically effective brand.

– by Bhavya Srivastava, a freelance contributor. He is a member of International Association of Religion Journalists and can be contacted at Twitter: @MeBhavya

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  • Kabir Chaudhary

    Baba Ramdev’s latest Pintanjali commercial has led to a backlash from the christian community in india. This is one minor hiccup in bag full of scandals that baba ram dev is famous for.

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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.