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Swami Ramdev is modern India’s health guru
Yoga may be ancient, but it was Swami Ramdev who re-invented it by making it simple and easy to practice. One need not have an acrobatic, supple and flexible body to practice the Ramdev brand of yoga. Spiritual marketing for yoga is latest trend.
YOGA, WHICH means union, has been practiced in India as a way of life for centuries. The yoga that is practiced worldwide is one aspect of this and involves ’pranayama’ or breathing exercises and ’hatha yoga’ or postures that exercise all the muscles of the body in slow and relaxed manner, combined with breathing exercises.


The art that originated some 2000 years ago is turning out to be the current fitness rage that had taken the entire world by storm. Though there have been fitness freaks but never in such huge numbers. Check out your neighborhood park in the morning and you will find a number of yoga enthusiasts doing various asans (postures).


Yoga is turning out to be the next ‘in’ thing with superstars like Madonna and Naomi Campbell going gaga over it. Hollywood celebrities swear by it and the world has fallen on their knees to embrace it.


Yoga is already widely practiced in countries like Australia and United States. However, in just the past few years, yoga has become one of the most popular forms of exercise and, in some cases, a very profitable business as well. Some measure the soaring popularity of yoga by the sky rocketing sales of yoga books, classes and equipment. Others note that yoga classes are overtaking traditional aerobics classes in popularity at health clubs throughout the nation.


If one had to live in Hong Kong, Singapore or Taipei, it would have been difficult not to notice how popular yoga has become. Newspapers and magazines run yoga-studio ads on a daily basis. Switch on the television and you can watch ads for such products as food, banking or telecommunications using yoga as a theme.


There have been several celebrated yoga teachers in the country before but nobody could possibly match what Swami Ramdev has done. He is hardly the kind of icon one would associate with a new, vibrant and technology savvy India. But for millions across the country, there can be no bigger trend setter in recent years than Baba Ramdev.


The maverick yoga guru of India’s ancient medical science, - Ayurveda, commands a tremendous hold over public imagination. Ramdev has made it so big in a country where fan following is usually the exclusive preserve of the Bollywood stars or the cricket superstars.


He offers you something more immediate - you do not have to die to benefit from him. That is why he is modern India’s material guru. He promises you a stress-free, disease-free and healthy life. He even assures cures for several diseases like asthma, blood pressure disorders, heart ailments and even cancer. All these claims are debatable, but his millions of disciples do not seem to care. After all, there is nothing to lose, as yoga has no harmful side effects.


A couple of years ago, some television channels also decided to cash in on the Baba’s popularity, they started beaming in his yoga training sessions live. Soon enough the popularity ratings of the TV channel patronised by Baba went up sharply as hundreds of thousands of yoga enthusiasts started their day with Baba Ramdev’s lessons on yoga.


There is perhaps another reason behind his popularity. Yoga may be ancient, but he has certainly re-invented it by making it very simple and easy to practice. One need not have an acrobatic, supple and flexible body to practice the Ramdev brand of yoga.


A new concept that reflects the popularity and commercialisation of yoga are ‘yoga tours’…the yoga tours in India include tours to north and south India and a Kailash-Mansarovar tour. Most travel agencies offer a yoga tour to cities like Delhi, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Jaipur and Agra as these cities are regarded rich in the age old cultures. A yoga tour can last from 8-15 days and you can even catch on the chance to stay in an ashram or a camp. If you want to enjoy the luxuries, you can take a yoga tour by staying at hotels or resorts that provide an ultimate luxury experience.


In an era like this, consumerism in itself is a kind of religion and spiritual marketing seems to have reached new heights of glossy sophistication. The superficiality is no less rampant in the world of hatha yoga, where spiritual advancement is often measured by how good you look. Just check out any one of the yoga books and you will find models gazing from the pages with sultry pouts that would look right at home in the pages of Victoria’s Secret.


As break neck economic growth and stress continue to be part of the daily routine for people living in Asia’s sprawling urban centres, it looks as if yoga will continue to gain popularity and keep the cash registers ringing!
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