Saturday December 15, 2018

Yoga guru BKS Iyengar features on Google Doodle

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New Delhi: BKS Iyengar, India’s foremost yoga teacher who brought the ancient Indian practice to the West, is being celebrated by today’s Google Doodle on the occasion of his 97th birthday.

The animated doodle, made by Kevin Laughlin, features an old man who looks just like Iyengar going through different yoga asanas of the ‘Iyengar Yoga’, a style “characterized by tremendous control and discipline”.

“BKS Iyengar, it’s been said, could hold a headstand for nearly half an hour well into his eighties,” said the search engine giant.

Bellur Krishnamachar Sundararaja Iyengar was born in 1918 into a poor South Indian family. He was one of 13 children, of whom only 10 survived.

The sickly child suffered from malaria and typhoid. To restore his health, his brother-in-law, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, often referred to as ‘the father of modern yoga’, invited the 13-year-old boy to his yoga school in Mysore.

He studied anatomy, physiology and psychology. After his spine got dislocated in a scooter accident, Iyengar began to experiment on the use of props to help the disabled practice yoga. He later pioneered modern therapeutic yoga.

At 19, Iyengar was sent to Pune to teach yoga, a practice which, according to him, involved both “art and science”. Thus began his career of almost eight decades.

It was here that famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin approached Iyengar because he couldn’t relax or sleep. However, Guru Iyengar, in a 2001 interview with broadcaster Sir Mark Tully, said that Menuhin was “snoring happily away…within one minute.”

The impressed violinist invited Iyengar to Switzerland in 1954, thus launching him as an international guru.

He went on to teach author Aldous Huxley, Sachin Tendulkar, and the Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, who is said to have learned his trademark sirsasana headstand at the age of 80.

The yoga guru continued his visits to the West till the practice was taught across several institutes around the world. Guru Iyengar is the only person to have popularized the practice to this extent in India and abroad. Iyengar Yoga is now taught in 70 countries.

Starting with ‘Light on Yoga’, Iyengar authored several other books on yoga as well. He also encouraged women to take up yoga, even during pregnancy.

Iyengar, who passed away in August last year of heart and renal failure at the age of 95, was awarded the Padma Shri in 1991, Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2014 for his immense contribution to yoga. He was also included in TIME’s list of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2004.

“The West knows yoga because of Iyengar. He developed a style of yoga for ordinary people. He introduced simple props and aids like ropes, blankets, wall to facilitate people to make it easy for the masses,” said Yogi Santatmananda Saraswati of Swami Dayananda Ashram, in Rishikesh, at the time of his death.

Today’s doodle based on Iyengar has reached several countries including Russia, US, UK, Indonesia, Canada and Spain.

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New AI Model by Google Can Help Detect Diabetic Retinopathy

For this purpose, it recently launched the "Google AI Impact Challenge"

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Google's new AI model to help detect diabetic retinopathy. Pixabay

Google has developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) model that can detect diabetic retinopathy with a level of accuracy on par with human retinal specialists, the technology giant said.

Google is working on “rolling out this diabetic retinopathy initiative in clinics in India with Verily” — an Alphabet-owned company which works on life sciences research and development, Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs at Google, wrote in a blog post on Thursday.

More than 400 million people in the world have diabetes. A third of them have diabetic retinopathy — a complication that can cause permanent blindness.

“Using the new assistive technology, doctors and staff can screen more patients in less time, sparing people from blindness through a more timely diagnosis,” Walker said.

While the blindness can be prevented, diabetic retinopathy often goes undetected because people do not always get screenings.

“In major part, this is due to limited access to eye care specialists and staff capable of screening for the disease. This is a problem that AI can help us solve,” Walker said.

“Deploying this technology in underserved communities that don’t have enough eye specialists could be life-changing for many,” Walker added.

Diabetes
Representational image. Pixabay

Google began work on the model in collaboration with eye specialists in India and the US a few years back. They developed an AI system to help doctors analyse images of the back of the eye for signs of diabetic retinopathy.

“The results were promising,” Walker noted, while adding “we should work to make the benefits of AI available to everyone”.

Google has for several years applied AI research and engineering to projects in Asia Pacific with positive societal impact, including stopping illegal fishing in Indonesia, forecasting floods in India, and conserving native bird species in New Zealand, the blog post read.

Also Read- U.S.A: Myanmar’s Military Campaign Against Rohingya Muslims a ‘Mass Genocide’

Besides healthcare, the tech giant also wants to support more Asia Pacific organisations in using AI to help society by engaging with governments, non-profit organisations, universities and businesses.

For this purpose, it recently launched the “Google AI Impact Challenge”.

“Selected organisations who apply to the challenge will receive support from Google’s AI experts and Google.org grant funding from a $25 million pool,” Walker said. (IANS)