Swami Ramdev in Houston


Photos: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: Swami Ramdev visited New York, Toronto and Houston a week ago teaching what he is living proof of – the physical and mental benefits the practice of yoga brings.

Lithe in his saffron robes and a sense of serenity around him, the Swami greeted his ardent followers everywhere he went with one message: Yoga for health, happiness and inner peace – a teaching he has been espousing relentlessly for over two decades.

As Chief Guest at the Independence Day Parade in New York, he inspired a crowd of 30,000 to be good citizens of their Karma Bhumi and proud Indians of their Janam Bhoomi. He enlightened doctors at the LIJ Northwell Hospital in New York on inner peace and addressed several gatherings of Indo Americans on wellbeing and happiness with yoga.


From left: Shekhar Agrawal, John Mendelsohn, Swami Ramdev, Ed Emmett, Durga Agrawal.

On August 23, Houston got a mix of all of the above.

A roomful of over 1000 Houstonians, eager to understand how yoga can bring inner peace to stressed minds and bodies, greeted the “Sant of Haryanvewala” at VPSS Haveli.

President of Patanjali Yogpeeth USA Shekhar Agrawal got the proceedings underway by inviting Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Dr. John Mendelsohn, Past President of MD Anderson Cancer Center to say a few words.

Judge Emmett encouraged the gathering “to take Swamiji’s knowledge and wisdom out of the room, in our hearts and distribute it to make the world a better place.”  Dr. Mendelsohn who introduced Integrative Medicine at MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2001 described him as “first and foremost a teacher, an entrepreneur of the largest and finest pharmaceutical company in the world and a true nationalist”


Swami Ramdev ji and Dr. Renu Khator, Chancellor of the University of Houston System

Seated upright in a half lotus pose, Swami Ramdev dwelt on the connection between good health, inner peace and yoga with humor and a healthy dose of practicality.  In a mix of Hindi and English, he guided the crowds through a collective OM and a series of Pranayam exercises which he explained connected one with the divine power to awaken the chakras, self-healing and self-realization.

The root cause of misery, Swami Ramdev elaborated, is the sense of inner incompleteness which is cloaked by the pursuit of materialistic pleasures. He offered a solution: Meditation – a practice that stills the mind and connects one with the divinity or Divyata within you. The rising divinity leads to the feeling of oneness, the recognition that what is in me is in you or “Ekatva as it is known in Hindi and brings inner peace. He added that no outside force can make you happy or complete. One can only experience it within oneself.

Often breaking into a smile or laughter, Swamiji emphasized that being a yogi does not mean distancing oneself from the world. As a yogi, he stated, he did not want anything for himself but worked 18 hours a day for the welfare of others. He pointed out that Patanjali Ayurveda Ltd, which provides livelihood to 100,000 people directly and 1 million indirectly, is the only company in the world that plows 100% of its profits in charity and education.


Audience Enjoying Swami Ramdev Pravachan

Swamiji claimed he hasn’t missed a day of yoga since he was 9 years old and proved it by standing on his head, demonstrating some fast paced Sun Salutations, several pushups and back exercises. When the applause died down, he asked the gathering, with a perfectly straight face, to practice these asanas every day! Swami Ramdev also shared some basic tenets of healthy living: 6 hours of sleep, rising early, eating raw vegetables and fruits, avoiding meat, eggs and salt with milk products, chewing thoroughly, and drinking water one hour after a meal.

The three things, he further reflected, one must never do are “inaction, reaction and wrong action.” He also stressed the fact that anger leads to acidity and negative chemical reactions in the body, causes aging and reduces one’s lifespan.

A passionate educator, Swamiji outlined his plans of starting 500 Acharyakulams across India and a world class university spread over 1500 acres near Delhi, India that would offer topnotch education in all streams. A sum of about $3.5 billion has been earmarked for his educational projects. He also spoke of his vision of building a huge medical facility that would cater to the needs of the poor.

Swami Ramdev capped the evening by thanking the trustees and volunteers of Patanjali Yogpeeth USA who put together the event with the support of the Hindus of Greater Houston and VPSS Haveli. Chairman of Patanjali Yogpeeth USA, Brahm Aggarwal joined Swamiji on stage to offer Shradhanjali to Pujya Pramukh Swami of BAPS.

Earlier in the day, Swami Ramdev met a small group of high level educators including Chancellor Dr. Renu Khator and Dr. John Mendelsohn at the University of Houston.