Mr SN Yadav, my yoga teacher, learnt his ropes under famous and much controversial Dhirendra Brahmachari. He continues to practice yoga and heal people.
The healing is also accompanied by long rounds of preaching the virtue of the yogic traditions in India which can be both amusing and irritating at the same time.
But, in one of the usual conversation which I had with him during a therapy session about Yoga, in general, made me see the whole PM Narendra Modi-led campaign in a different light.
When I asked, what has changed under Modi when it comes to yoga, he said, “Respect.” The conversation was long but the message was clear that something indeed changed under Narendra Modi. Though yoga cannot be attributed to any person, group or government, but the push made by Narendra Modi did make yoga attain visibility and respect across the globe. A simple act of lending himself to the act of Yoga in public made the ancient art respectable with the Indian elite.
I asked him what does he mean by respect? He said,” Earlier hospitals would not entertain the idea of alternative healing. Today, every hospital invites us for alternative healing. Medical fraternity too has understood that Yoga does not compete with any system of knowledge. It only adds to it.”
There are photographs of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru doing Yoga and Indira Gandhi patronising Dhirendra Brahmachari, but a personalised push supported by both organisation and government was absent owing to the fact that many people associated yoga with Hinduism.
Lastly, when I asked him, what was the idea of yoga in 70s and 80s when you started your work, he said,” People thought Yoga is all about old people and ascetics and never thought in terms of it being an intrinsic part of modern daily life.”
It is for this reason, the public practice of yoga became such a polarising issue. But down the years, the critics have reduced and participation of people has increased. My understanding is that yoga has found space within the rubric of positive nationalism too which makes a claim to India’s rich historical ancient legacy.
Yoga is reflecting a larger temperamental shift, wherein faith from the ancient civilizational perspective is reclaiming its lost space in the politics, culture, literature and society.
This shift is a rejection of the idea of ‘French secularism’ which many political parties feel is still workable in Indian democracy. It is not. The former was about separation of the church and the state whereas the Indian experience of living together (as religious communities) is about peaceful co-existence which does not come at the expense of public affirmation of Sanatan Dharma and practices and art, directly and indirectly, connected to it.
Today, India has stamped its ownership on Yoga and the credit, definitely, goes to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi helped yoga attain the global status it deserved.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL.)