by Joseph Patrick Shea
December 21, 2010
READING, U.K., Dec. 11, 2010 -- Mulibir Rai had been suffering since 2004 from severe gout, a disease that causes painful swelling of the toes due to excessive uric acid in the bloodstream, and arthritis-like symptoms in his joints. He took high doses of anti-inflammatory and other drugs to suppress the acute pain, and their side-effects included unbearable headaches and nausea.
When his condition worsened, he could not sit in a squatting position, as those of his culture would prefer, and had to be satisfied with crouching. "I couldn't fold my knees even a quarter way down," Rai said, speaking at a Patanjali Yoga class held recently in Aldershot, a city of 57,000 near London.
Rai consulted many doctors and tried different medications, but his health didn't improve. Yet, he says, his condition did improve dramatically and suddenly when he started practicing pranayama - a word that translates literally as "control of force," or more commonly, "restraint of breath." Essentially, pranayam are breathing exercises associated with the ancient South Asian practice of yoga, and "reinvented" by a renowned Indian "saint," Swami Ramdev, whose Patanjail Yoga school conducts thousands of classes daily in India, here in London, and around the globe every day.
Rai has now been practicing pranayama for the last 30 nmonths. "I can't remember a day that has passed [with breathing exercise] undone. At best I have done up to two hours, and at worst I had to fall out in three minutes, particularly when I have to stay overnight as a visitor," he recalls.
With regular pranayama, his condition improved dramatically. "I have not used crouches for two years now," said Rai jubilantly. "Since I've practiced, my gout came down from [a severity rating of] 10 to 1." More importantly, he says, "pranayama has been of great help for me to understand life and has kept me closer to my spiritual life."
Meanwhile, the Times of India newspaper reported recently, that for one 73-year staff journalist, Ramashish (he has just one name), who has spent 46 years in Kathmandu, the Nepalese capital, "Yoga has given him a second chance in life."
In 2004, the reporter wrote, "I was diagnosed with 95 percent arterial blockade, and a valve had collapsed. The hospitals in India said I required surgery. But I took to pranayama and yoga and now I am fit," the veteran newsman said from Kathmandu in a telephone interview with The American Reporter.
His Times of India article on the practice said that "yoga has even helped him grow new hair on his bald pate."
Mr. Rai and Ramashish (he has only one name) aren't alone in recounting such experiences. Countless numbers of people, numbering ion the millions in India and Nepal alone, are practicing pranayama around the world. Most started to practice pranayama after they began suffering serious health problems.
The Patanjali Yoga school was started by a man some consider a saint, named Patanjali, thousands of years ago in India, and has been "reinvented" by another figure revered by followers as a saint named Swami Ramdev.
According to a brochure from Patanjai Yoga Peeth UK Trust, which operates the school in Aldershot, "the outstanding treatise on Ashtang Yoga, or yoga learned in eight separate stages, is known for its Sutras, that are simple but with abstruse and extensive content."
Maharishi Patanjali wrote his treatise to offer practical knowledge of samadhi, or repose, through an eightfold path of yoga to the world. Pranayama is a controlled breathing exercise said to help all ailments and health problem. There are eight types of pranayama: Bhastrika, Kapalbhati, Bahya, Ujjayi, Anulom Vilom, Bhramri, Udgeeth and Pranav.
This exercise, according to the Patanjali Peeth, can contribute to creating a toned, flexible and strong body, help improve respiration, energy and vitality, maintain a balanced metabolism, contribute to promote a healthy heart and circulation, and relieve pain.
According to followers, pranayama also helps people look and feel younger and improves athletic performance. Regular practice of yoga asans, or postures, coupled with pranayama helps control acidity, allergies, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, backache, high blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical sodalities, constipation, depression, diabetes, epilepsy, chronic fatigue, headaches, heartburn, heart disease, obesity, sciatica, sinus problems and physical weakness.
The Trust says pre- and post-yoga workshop participants have, for example, shown weight loss of between 8 to 16 lbs. among obese people and a weight gain of 4 to 8 lbs. by those clinically diagnosed as underweight. The Trust says studies have revealed the regular practice of yoga and pranayama can lead to freedom from dependence on inhalers by asthma patients, freedom from insulin injections for diabetics, freedom from regular medication among those with high blood pressureand freedom from blockages in blood vessels. Pranayama purifies the vital life source, the prana, the Trust says, and gives practitioners greater physical energy.
Tens of thousands of Yoga classes are offered around the globe and millions tune into the Astha television channel, where Swami Ramdev teaches people how to do yoga and live a healthy life. In addition to participating at various weekend camps, people also learn Yoga through CDs, DVDs, books and videos.
Sunita Poddar, Trustee of the PYPT in Britain, said within the United Kingdom and worldwide, the Trust has trained over 2,500 teachers. "In UK alone, we have over 1,500 trained teachers conducting over 400 classes on a weekly basis, which is expected to grow vastly," he told Ther American Reporter.
"Thousands of people, especially those who are from Nepal and India and living in the UK, regularly do yoga almost every day, and camps are held in almost all the Hindu temples across the country every week. Its popularity has gone up in the recent years," Poddar said.
More than 50 Nepalese - including this reporter - recently took part in the Assistant Yoga Instructor training held in Aldershot, where a large number of Nepalese Gurkhas live. A Nepali Pran Yog Group was also formed under chairman Atmaram Dahal, and the groups are expanding to various parts of the United Kingdom.
The yoga of Swami Ramdev is very simple, and anyone from any religious background, anywhere in the world, can do it. In a BBC interview, Ramdev said, "Earlier I also used to try the really difficult asans. But, gradually, I understood there is no need to push and punish oneself needlessly. So now I practice and teach simple breathing exercises which keep one healthy and stress-free."
"Life is not for doing yoga. Yoga is for making life better," he said. His simple, healthy and happy living principle is a combination of yoga, ayurvedic (traditional) medicine, acupressure, naturopathy and balanced living, he says.
Ramdev's lifestyle is reportedly very simple. He only eats boiled vegetables and fruits, does not drink anything except water and cow's milk, and only sleeps four hours - always on the floor. But within that regimen, his followers say he has completely revolutionized yoga. His slogan: "Good health is humanity's birthright."
Followers who say they have directly benefited from his simple method of yoga have ample reason to follow him. Millions of them say that Ramdev, like Mahatma Gandhi, who brought down the mighty British Empire through his non-violence movement, a simple man in the traditional saffron robes of the Hindu ascetics, is bringing a positive revolution to India and other parts of the world.
The American Reporter has not independently verified, and does not endorse, any of the claims presented for pranayama, yoga or the Patanjali School.
AR Correspondent Chiranjibi Paudyal has contributed to The American Reporter since 1999.