Take A Deep Breath: Yogic Cancer Therapy In Scotland


Baba Ramdev, left, in orange

Baba Ramdev, left, in orange

This week, the BBC ran a report about the North Ayrshire island of Little Cumbra which is being converted into an international yoga camp after a blessing from India’s most popular lifestyle guru Baba Ramdev.

The island was bought by two devoted Glaswegian followers of the Swami, and will be renamed ‘Peace Island’ for the project which will build the camp – and if the claims Baba Ramdev makes are to be believed, the £2m paid for the island was a bargain. If his claims are to be believed. Which, it turns out, is quite a big ‘if’ – considering the wild claims he’s prone to making.

In fact, the BBC report itself puts some of his wild assertions out uncritically, specifically regarding the healing powers of the Swami’s practice of yoga and pranayama. Pranayama, in case you’ve not heard of it, is a Sanskrit word meaning “restraint of the prana or breath”. In Yoga, it’s used to denote the control of breathing practiced throughout the stretching. But, as the BBC reports, it has other properties too:

“Sunita Podder, the island’s new owner, says before pranayama she was overweight and taking 12 tablets a day”

OK, maybe there’s something in that – yoga is some form exercise, so while the breathing itself won’t have had any effect, the stretching and the associated lifestyle changes could account for the change in weight and mood (although it neglects to mention what the 12 tablets she was taking were).

“Dhruv says he was stressed on his diet of alcohol and meat and says now nothing can trouble him”

Nothing can trouble him? Oh dear. This sounds like it could go somewhere pretty effing crazy. Like, for example:

“Eric Ross, from Bolton, has been doing the yoga for three months and says it is already helping his diabetes. Eric believes in the cancer-treating claims made for pranayama”

That’s right, deep-breathing can cure cancer. Or so says the Swami. Eric continues:

“I believe it 110%. It’s been going on for thousands of years but it’s new to westernised people. I’m going to India so I can learn how to do it myself and teach it. We can cure ourselves from within.”

Can anyone spot the fallacies in that sentence, other than the ‘argument from more than 100%’?

Cancer-curing isn’t the only outlandish health claim made by Baba Ramdev – in August 2006 in an interview with the BBC he claimed his ‘complete medical science’, by which he means yoga, benefits hepatitis sufferers.

What’s more, in December 2006 it was reported that Ramdev had made claims of being able to use Yoga and Ayurvedic herbs to cure AIDS. However, apparently, he had been misquoted (despite these claims existing on his website to this day) – he said his new-age techniques only alleviate the suffering of AIDS, without curing it. For which there’s no proof, of course. So that’s fine, is it? Breathe deep and your AIDS suffering will be lessened? And this man has over 80million followers, we’re told?

What shocked me most about this story, really, was the way in which the BBC reported the claimed cures with no criticism – no note to say that deep breathing, stretching and wishful-thinking won’t cure cancer, no note to urge caution when faced with outrageous health claims. I think the BBC really dropped the ball here, promoting a man who’s been peddling quack, touchy-feely nonsense.

What’s more, the Swami is far from cleaner than clean – in July 2009, after the Delhi High Court repealed the laws that made homosexuality illegal in India, Ramdev was quoted as saying:

“The verdict will encourage criminality and sick mentality. This kind of thing is shameful and insulting. We are blindly following the West in everything. This is breaking the family system in India. Homosexuals are sick people, they should be sent to hospitals for treatment. If the government brings this law, I will take to the streets of Delhi in protest” – Source: DNA India

And this man is revered as lifestyle guru, a role model, and gets his own £2m island. Blimey.

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  1. #1 by Keira James on June 28, 2010 - 18:18

    ayurvedic herbs are really helpful on my dermatitis.’;*

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