Practitioners at Ramdev's Patanjali Institute
If you call the Patanjali institute run by yoga guru Ramdev, the respondent at the other end is likely to respond with 'Om' - a greeting which has become one of the points of friction for Muslim groups protesting against Yoga Day. But Nadeem Ahmed displays no such turmoil or dilemma every time he answers the phone.
"What's wrong with Om," he asks. As the head engineer working at Patanjali, he and 20-odd other Muslim employees of the trust run by the Yoga guru, regularly attend yoga shivirs or workshops. And although it isn't compulsory, they've never felt they were betraying any tenets of Islam. "How can anyone have a problem with Yoga," says Ahmed, "It is a medicine."
When he takes us to meet his other colleagues, one Muslim youth tells us how his grandfather initially had apprehensions about Yoga similar to that of the Muslim Personal Law Board which has said that yoga asanas like Surya Namaskar are un-Islamic. "When I came here," said the young man, "I had heart problems but now they seem to have worked themselves out. And that's what I made sure my grandfather understood."
These employees also practice Surya Namaskar or sun salutation which has not been included in the protocol for June 21, as objection to it was anticipated. "Surya Namaskar has been misrepresented," said yoga guru Ramdev to NDTV. "Many think it has to be done with chanting of mantras, but that's not correct," he added.
"There's no problem to chanting either,'' said Ahmed, adding that Ramdev tells his employees to chant whatever they wish. Dr Shirley Telles who has been studying the impact of yoga told NDTV, "Whether one chants Om, or Ave Maria or Buddhist chants, chanting by itself has beneficial effects. But it is true that if one chants knowing the positive impact of something, it does have more of an impact on a particular part of the brain."