Already a major yoga-celebrity in his native India, with a massive following, a hugely popular tv show, and the world’s largest center for yoga and ayurveda, 55-year old guru Swami Ramdev, (who prounouces it “yog” to you novices) is taking his show westward in hopes of expanding his popularity to become an American household name. His claims of curing all man’s diseases (including aids and cancer) have resulted in some heavy criticism, but that didn’t stop the Indian Health Ministry from hiring him to consult on the matter of public health and to be the sole figure in leading the revival of yoga.
Now Ramdev is prepared to take his prescription of idealogy stateside, where yoga has been gaining speed, especially in the past few years, as a veritable fitness trend (we still can’t find Wii Fit anywhere). Plans are well underway to build a mecca right here in America’s yoga capital – the barbecue-laden, race-car obsessed, southern town of Rosenberg, TX, just outside of Houston. Of the $4.5 million estimated cost, $2 million is claimed to have been raised in the first 2 hours of a fundraising event (actual contributers have not been revealed). Upon completion, ambitiously slated for some time in 2009, the center is rumored to boast a clinic to treat chronic ailments, housing for active seniors, a retreat center and a vedic Gurukul school for young children and a teaching university.
In theory this all sounds fantastic – the image of Americans great and small putting down their cheeseburgers and embracing yoga with open arms, so diligent in practice that they stop-drop-and-yoga together right there in the streets almost has us wanting to wash this guy’s feet (ok we’re being facetious). But with respect to his darndest efforts we can’t help feeling uneasy and frankly creeped out by his preachy approach. Evangelists, and extremists, of any sort are basically bad news. Will this guy end up being the pusherman and threaten the good thing yoga has going for itself right now in the US? Should we just brace ourselves now the backlash of the “yoga cult”? Or will he be America’s next top self-help guru given the coveted Oprah stamp of approval? Too soon to tell. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye out for the Swami Ramdev channel coming soon to a cable station near you.
Click here for a slideshow of Ramdev’s recent tour stop in Houston July 16-20 where he made the big announcement.
Earlier… Dawn of the Yoga Televangelist