On the topic of yoga, and impassioned proselytizing of its inherent benefits, perhaps it’s not entirely fair for us to automatically think of the sweaty golden god known as Bikram Choudhury. Really. Step aside blingmaster stretch! There’s a new yoga ‘Don’ and he’s got the Scottish island to prove it! That’s Baba Ramdev, otherwise known as Swami Ji, otherwise known as the yogaevangelist extraordinaire. He’s HUGE in Asia with millions of followers via televised programs and live yoga camps, and proudly holds the title of yoga-resurrecter in his native India. With sights shifting West, we mentioned how Ramdev’s recent purchase of small Scottish island Little Cumbrae has made big headlines in the UK. Benefactors Sam and Sunita Poddar, originally from India and living in Scotland for 25 years, have been running the UK branch of the Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust, a sister charity org of the Swamster, and felt the £2 million price tag for the 700-acre island was well worth it. Thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Poddar, Ramdev made the news again just last week at the ground breaking ceremony on the newly christened ‘Peace Island’, setting the yoga doozers in motion to build what will be a massive ‘international base”destined for “great pilgrimage.”
While reportedly the center will offer its services (yoga, massages, diet plans) for free to those who can’t afford it, British officials and profiteers are already drooling on their open palms at the potential of a major tourist attraction. The official price list for the center has yet to be announced, but surely the helicopter tours will make a killing! This is all very exciting of course, but yankee yogs don’t book your tickets yet! Lest you forget the US is also in line to receive our very own Ramdev compound. In fact it’s already underway, in Houston, TX! A 94-acre plot in Rosenberg near Sugar Land, though we haven’t heard much about it since last year.
On one hand we’re all like ‘heyyy rock on, yoga’s reaching new heights in acceptance and wouldn’t this make the world a better, more peaceful place?’ And then we’re reminded that anything on this large a scale means politics are inevitably involved, not to mention the cultural impact. Sure there’s lots of YogaPop these days – even Ramdev accepted an offer to star on India’s version of Big Brother, Big Boss 3, though had to decline due to his strict conditions – but overall it’s kinda nice to have yoga more widely accepted, even if we encounter the occasional yogatart or are led to believe our butts will be enlightened by wearing expensive spandex. Are we so quick to forget that Ramdev is a spiritual, and religious figure whose anti-homosexuality stance, cure-all claims and parlay into politics have raised controversies and more than a few eyebrows? For now, all of that stays under his India robes.
Although he said he wanted to “heal everyone on the globe”, he declined to speculate on whether gays would be welcome there. “Homosexuality is not good, or bad, or legally right or wrong. It is not constitutionally right in India but I don’t want to say anything outside the country in the UK.” [TimesOnline]
We’re keeping an eye on this one. Curious if health drinks and vitamins will be all they’re serving up at Ramdev’s ranch, or at his ‘Natural Health’ shops like the one that just opened the other day in Leicester, England. Either way, the Yoga ship is cruising for the big time and cap’n Ramdev is at the wheel! With a crew of, oh, a few million. Pirates beware.