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Bharat Thakur: New Age Yoga

Chitra Sanam

His English is punctuated with a slew of Sanskrit words. In fact that’s the only give away that Bharat Thakur is a yoga guru, if you didn’t know his name and didn’t recognize him. No dhoti, no vibhuthi on the forehead, no sign of a rudraksh and no dreadlocks either. Instead, he sports a crew cut, corporate casuals and natty cologne. That’s the reason it makes it hard to believe that he spent all his childhood in the Himalayas.

I was born into a thakur’s family when a baba prayed for mom who was childless. So when I was born, I was given away as a sacrifice to spend my childhood in tapas in the mountains,” he shares. After his baba’s spirit departed, Thakur headed back home, pursued higher studies while teaching yoga at Mayo College. Over time, he made yoga his lifeline.

Today, the 21st century metropolitan gives kudos to Bharat Thakur for popularising yoga across the country and even overseas. But “Yoga is not big in India,” he points out. It’s definitely the ‘new age’ craze now, one may argue. “While 22 per cent of America practices yoga, in India only 0.0001 per cent has incorporated it into their lifestyle. Other than my school, there is no other yoga school to date that’s a chain across India. But you do have Airtel everywhere!” he responds.

For the ‘small’ niche that’s waking up to treasure our traditional heritage, a yoga lifestyle sounds promising and rejuvenating. “It’s an entire process to live the yoga lifestyle. One needs to know if they want to imbibe Yoga as Time magazine popularizes it as the best bet to have a toned behind, or practice Yoga as Buddha it, which is to experience bliss of the other realm,” he clarifies.

A more secular approach emphasizes on the exercise aspect of Yoga, while spirituality is an entirely different pursuit. “That’s one reason why it’s alright for a yogi to have a pot belly. I always questioned them till they answered that the physical shape of the body doesn’t matter when you’ve already experienced the other world. Their purpose is not to get in shape,” explains Thakur.

That, however, doesn’t mean that there are different types of yoga. Thakur says, “There are so many kinds of Yoga that have sprung up everywhere in the West. There’s even something called ‘Naked Yoga’ today. It can’t be as there’s only one kind of Yoga, but under each master’s name, it took on his rendition of it. For instance, you have Shiv Samitha which is the oldest version that Shiv himself propagated. Then there were other masters too. Buttoday, I don’t buy into the concept of God-mind image. We are human beings and will always be so. It’s just that we work towards empowering people and their lives through the medium of yoga,” he concludes.

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