Yoga is beyond religion and for everyone

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Yoga for every religion
Yoga for every religion

Agra: Fr John Ferreira, former principal of the 169-year-old St Peter’s College here, has been a yoga enthusiast for three decades and has promoted it in the college as well. He was quite clear that yoga was for everyone and religion had little to do with it.

“Those who still regard it as ‘a Hindu system’ are just ignorant. Yoga has the power to cure hundreds of ailments. I myself was suffering from obesity, hypertension, arthritis, prostate, diabetes, and kidney infections, besides severe eyesight problems. Now I can read without glasses and am free from all diseases,” said the 64-year-old, who looks like someone in his 40s and claims to run faster than a 10-year old.

The benefits he obtained from the system led to a deep and lasting interest in yoga. He has since followed many Hindu yoga gurus and he feels this is an art which connects souls to god, is universal and should be followed by all. He learnt yoga from Swami Satyanand Saraswati at the Bihar School of Yoga in Munger. He also learnt it from Shivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, Swami Vivekanand Yoga University in Bangalore, and in Kaivalya Dhaam Ashram, Lonavala.

While principal at St Peter’s, Ferreira had introduced a giant image of Christ in a yogic posture at the college entrance. He had faced criticism from the Vatican then. He was also criticized for his claims that Christ was a great “yogi”. He continues to practice yoga and encourage young people to take it up. After retiring as principal Ferreira has been running a yoga centre at Dayalbagh and teaching yoga and naturopathy to hundreds of his followers from across the country.

“Modern society, with its cup full of stress and a package of mental and physical ailments, stands in dire need for India’s yogic knowledge,” he said adding that yoga must be integrated into the school curriculum to provide a holistic approach to education as a science that not only prepares a student for life but provides the art of living well.

Ferreria was in the news when he replied to a comment by pastor of the Mars Hill Church in the US, Mark Driscoll, who had termed yoga as “demonic” and an agent of Hinduism. Ferreira had hotly contested this, claiming that Christ himself had been a great yogi.

“Only a yogi can make the supreme sacrifice that Jesus made. Yoga does not belong to any particular religion. It is a universal science being practiced in various forms by people all over. Even the sound ‘Om’ is universal, just like the gayatri mantra. Yoga can only make you good Christians,” he said.

He faced the Vatican’s censure when he introduced mandatory yoga classes at St Peter’s in 2007 and unveiled a 6,000-sq ft gallery adjacent to the school’s historic cathedral that features paintings and embossed reliefs of the various yoga positions and their purported health benefits along with a picture of Jesus sitting in a yoga position.

“Even Muslims do yoga. Look at the way they offer namaz. The postures resemble asanas. Those who are opposing it are ignorant. A man with disease can never preach religion. One has to be fit to spread the name of God and yoga is the best way to remain fit,” he remarked.

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