A yoga university in Gujarat is teaching the healthy way to live.
By Mahesh Trivedi
During the ear-splitting cacophony of the recent Lok Sabha election battle, why did Narendra Modi remain cool as a cucumber despite no-holds-barred, stinging criticism from media and rival politicos day in and day out?
Well, the prime minister and former Gujarat chief minister is a dyed-in-the-wool aficionado of yoga, an ancient Indian system of physical, mental and spiritual exercises that help one to control and relax both mind and body. After years of extensive exercise regimen of yoga, 64-year-old Modi has mastered the art of living with equanimity amidst the day-to-day turbulence in his life in a world teeming with Machiavellian glad-handers of countless hues.
It was not surprising then that last year, the powerful, busy-as-a-bee man on the move took time off from his hectic schedule to inaugurate what has been described as India’s first government-accredited, full-fledged, self-funded private yoga university on the outskirts of Ahmedabad.
The BJP government in Gujarat, then under Modi, not only made it a point to pass a bill in the state legislative assembly to
confer the coveted university status to the new-fangled Lakulish Yoga University (LYU) but also gifted it a 12,000-square-meter precious plot of land on the highway joining Ahmedabad with Gandhinagar.
Named after the last reincarnation of Lord Shiva,Lakulish– LYU is located near the campuses of the prestigious Nirma University and the Indira Gandhi National Open University. A vice-chancellor (VC), who himself possesses a doctorate in yoga, scientific training in age-old yogic techniques by past masters, and a spacious, eye-catching, lotus-shaped building for education and research in serene surroundings, all set the LYU apart from the mushrooming run-of-the-mill, fly-by-night yoga training centers in the country.
“Yoga constitutes the most important aspects of the human life and the university courses accordingly focus on the all-around development of the human personality—physical, mental and spiritual”, says VC Dr Bansidhar Upadhyaya, who has 40 years of teaching experience behind him.
Indeed, the degree, diploma and certificate courses offered by LYU for Indian and foreign students for nominal fees—despite shortage of funds—have attracted many yoga enthusiasts, including foreigners and non-resident Indians.
The learners also include upwardly mobile boys and girls, ambitious sports and physical education teachers, and even never-say-die, senior citizens.
Ahmedabad-based homoeopath Dr Neha Thaker says she is pursuing LYU’s three-year, six-semester graduate degree course (BSc yoga) to better serve her patients, who, according to her, are now well aware about the importance of yoga. “I wanted to learn yoga the way it was taught by sage Patanjali, who relied on the Vedas, the most ancient records of Indian culture. And LYU is just the place I was looking for,” asserts Thaker. Instructions and training in the yogic studies of asanas (postures), pranayams (breathing techniques) and shatkarmas (cleansing processes) are imparted in multiple languages with the help of class- room lectures, practicals, demonstrations, site visits and home study.
According to Prof Poojaba Jadeja, the curriculum includes not only ashtang yoga, bhakti yoga and karma but also philosophy, psychology, anatomy, ayurveda and naturopathy. Students also read books on metaphysics, world religions, physiology, hygiene, physical education, sociology, Sanskrit and Indology.
Housed in an architectural marvel, the “Lotus View”, designed by famed architect Hemraj Kamdar, and boasts facilities like a library, an auditorium, large practical rooms, lecture halls, a 24-room hostel and a playground. But the main attraction of this extraordinary edifice, that took nine years to complete, is the expansive and spectacular, high-domed atrium.
The central gallery with its circular walls displays colourful photographs of the scholarly yogis of yore, the innumerous tough asanas evolved by them over the years and informative charts of the human anatomy. “Lotus is the symbol of purity and the design is derived from nature. The building has a unique natural ventilation system obviating the need for fans in summer,” informs award-winning architect Kamdar, who has to his credit several heritage projects in Gujarat as well as other states.
LYU has been set up by the Life Mission Trust, a registered public charitable trust founded in 1993 by renowned Swami Rajarshi Muni, who has spent most of his time in seclusion practicing yoga, designing novel courses and penning 90 books, as also researching on the ancient Indian science for the past 37 years.
The trust is headquartered in Suren-dranagar district in central Gujarat and has been running several yoga training centers across the state as well as in the US, the UK, Canada and Mauritius.
A cash cow in the US
The number of global yoga practitioners are as high as 250 million. In the US, the number of people practising yoga in the US has shot up from 9 million in 1980 to 21 million, and 70 per cent of them are women. As a result, yoga has become a cash cow for studios and institutes headed by ‘super’ yoga gurus as the enthusiasts and hypochondriacs do not mind blowing up over $10
billion annually on classes and equipment, according to the Yoga Journal.