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October - November 2006
Swami Ramdev in Britain: Yog workshops to improve physical and mental health - A hit with Britons
Swami Ramdev Maharaj, based in Haridwar, India, and whose unique Yoga workshops held throughout the country have attracted hundreds of thousands of devout followers, visited Britain on a six-week tour during July/August 2006 to impart the benefits of Yog Asanas (postures) that promote physical fitness, mental alertness, and a refreshing spiritual uplift.
To his workshops, held in large Shamianas (marquees) in London, Leicester, Bolton and Harrow, with local volunteers in attendance, came a large number of men, women and children from the Indian community as well as English people and Europeans to take part in the daily two-hour early morning and late afternoon sessions. The warm sunlit weather also helped to make it a most welcome and memorable Hindustani event on the British scene.
Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jainis, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Zoarastrians, Ahmedyas, Atheists, Soofis, all came to happily participate in the Swami’s easy-to-follow Yog health-promotion exercises conducted in an atmosphere of sheer informality and joviality.
Ramdevji, who has a magnetic personality, also posseses a great sense of humour; some of his witty observations sent a ripple of laughter across the vast audiences. And he seems to have the rare ability of establishing an instant and direct rapport with the common man.
When, along with India-Link’s Editor/Publisher Krishan Ralleigh - to whom Ramdevji gave an exclusive interview (see magazine August/September 2006) – I met the distinguished visitor in his 7th-floor apartment in London, he made it clear that he was also on a fund-raising mission to help towards the BIG building projects in and around Kankhal costing Crores of Rupees.
Here the Yog workshops conducted under the auspices of Patanjali Yog Peeth (UK) offered ‘donor passes’ ranging from £70 to £340 to anyone wishing to attend the Yog sessions for a full week. It was a unique and effective way of obtaining donations whilst giving practical demonstrations of the benefits of Yog Asanas that are as ancient as the Hindu Dharma. Large crowds attended the workshops every day to see and hear the bearded and moustached Swami with a noble countenance and a charming smile and whose personal possessions were just an orange wrap-around garment and wooden slippers
Before I proceed further, I feel a brief background of Ramdevji’s popular better-health-for-all campaign that has taken the people of India by storm would be in order. Needless to say that Ramdevji seems to have struck a chord in the hearts of the Indian masses who love and adore him and look upon him as an ‘Avatar’.
At the sprawling Divya Yog Mandir complex in Kankhal, under the auspices of Patanjali Yogpeeth established in 1995, regular classes in the science of Yog are conducted for the benefit of men and women, young and old, the healthy and the sick.
At these open-air classes attended by up to 30,000 people at a time, the importance of deep meditation, concentration of mind, and deep-breathing techniques is demonstrated in an easy-to-follow routine.
At the spectacular Patanjali Yogpeeth conference held in Kankhal 4-6 April 2006 inaugurated by India’s Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and attended by no less than 15 Chief Ministers of States Swami Ramdev announced an ambitious programme of building a large hospital and dispensaries, a University and Library, and as many as 4000 rooms for short-term visitors from across India and abroad, on a 150-acre site situated 15 miles from Haridwar. Also planned is a huge kitchen, to be manned by a battalion of volunteers and probably the largest kitchen in the world, where up to 5000 people would be fed every day!
Massive funds are required to bring such a massive project to fruition, and Ramdevji envisages raising additional funds by holding Yog workshops abroad; he has so far received invitations from 50 countries and plans to visit foreign lands as far apart as America and Australia, Dubai and Mauritius.
Back to London. At the first Yog workshop in UK held in Ilford 15-22 July (under the overall management of Bobby Dewan, London-based PR man specializing in organizing events), Swami Ramdev, accompanied by Acharya Balkrishna, Secretary-General of the Divya Yog Mandir Trust – and the most important person in Ramdevji’s entourage – said: “To lead a happy life it is important to maintain good health.” And good physical fitness, he said, can be achieved through regular Yog Asanas and Praneyam (deep-breathing exercises).
A novel feature of his presentation was Ramdevji inviting those from the audience who had truly benefited from Yog and Praneyam to come forth and tell their experiences.
Swati Dhawan. This young lady working at the London office of Goldman Sachs International as a financial consultant suffered from Urticaria (a nasty skin allergy) for almost 10 years. Addressing Ramdevji, she said, “It was an agonizing decade I had to endure, but now I have got a new lease of life thanks to you by following Yog Asanas I watched on Aastha Channel 808 and taking medicine I got from your laboratory in Kankhal.” Other similar cases that I investigated are as follows:
Neelam Walia. This married lady with two grown-up children living near Heathrow airport suffered high blood-pressure for quite some time, and since following the Yog Asanas on TV for the past four months has benefited immensely. “I’m now totally cured,” said Neelum when I visited her home in Cranford.
Balwant Singh Rayat. Owns Rayat Superstore in Hounslow. Suffered from acute sugar problem which at times made him feel giddy and unstable on his feet. When I interviewed him in his shop, he said, “Since doing Yog exercises at the crack of dawn every day, and by regularly taking medicine obtained from a Kankhal centre in Delhi by my brother Nirmal who runs a travel agency and frequently visits India, I am now as fit as before.” I learnt that in appreciation of his cure, Balwant distributes to needy persons, free of charge, the Kankhal medicine he gets regularly from India. A noble gesture indeed..
Manju Soi. A grandmother living in a 4th-floor flat in Himachal Apartments in Dwarka, New Delhi, and on a visit to see her sister in London had this to say: “I felt a lot of pain in my right knee for a long time, then the other knee got affected and I could not walk. After following Ramdevji’s Yog Asanas and taking medicine from Kankhal for four months, I am now fully cured and able to walk for long distances – one afternoon last week I walked across Windsor with my sister and her family without feeling any discomfort. It is a near miracle!”
Mohan Dass. A friend of mine living in New Jersey (USA), Mohan told me over the phone that he had had high blood pressure which sapped his energy, but since taking the Kankhal medicine he obtained on a visit to Delhi last December, and doing Yog exercises and Prayenam deep-breathing he watches on Aastha TV at home, his ‘Systolic’ reading had come down from a high 178 to 138!
Upon hearing the comments of Swati Dhawan and others in the audience, Swami Ramdev bowed his head in humility and appreciation amidst a mighty applause from 6000 clapping hands. Then leaping up in ecstasy and clapping both raised hands with glee, Ramdevji called out ‘Jago, Jago Ray!’(Wake up, folks!). He meant greater awareness of the benefits of Yog Asanas was vital.
The entire audience stood up and lustily sang an inspirational bhajan with this amazing visitor from Hindustan.