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 FEATURE # 57
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Yoga in the snow? Mountaineer challenges Baba Ramdev
(08/04/2011)

He's a mountaineer and a yoga instructor and claims to have performed yoga bare-bodied in Ladakh's snow-clad mountains at an altitude of over 14, 000 ft. And Ajai Kumar Bajpayee has now dared renowned yoga guru Baba Ramdev to match his feat.

Bajpayee, 32, a liaison officer with the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF) and a native of Shareefabad in Barabanki district, has performed a 30-minute yoga session at the popular Kun mountaineering destination in Ladakh. He now wants Ramdev to showcase his yoga skills before the public in the same manner.

"It's an open challenge to him from my side. Let there be a yoga competition between us. Both of us will have to perform yoga bare-bodied in bone-chilling conditions or similar to that of those prevailing in Ladakh, " Bajpayee told IANS on phone from Barabanki, some 35 km from Lucknow.

Bajpayee, however, said Ramdev should take up his challenge in a sporting spirit.

"I respect Babaji (Ramdev) a lot. Undoubtedly, Babaji has done a lot in promoting yoga not only in the country but in different parts of the globe. It's not that I am proud of myself and want others to feel low. The objective behind such a challenge is to showcase the incredible tasks that could be achieved through yoga.

"I believe Babaji will accept my challenge and people will get an opportunity to witness the unusual tasks and challenges that could come to the fore in the competition between us. I have written a letter to Baba Ramdev in this regard. Response from his side is awaited, " said Bajpayee, who has also rendered his services as a yoga instructor in China and Thailand.
Bajpayee performed the 30-minute yoga session in October last year, when he was a part of a mountaineering expedition that had people from Switzerland, Germany and Austria.

"As I am a qualified mountaineering instructor, I am several times asked by the IMF that closely works with the ministries of sports, home, defence and tourism, to accompany members of expedition groups for mountaineering and trekking and other adventure sports. One of the members of the expedition filmed me performing the yoga acts, " said Bajpayee, who first enrolled for training in mountaineering in 1999 at an institute in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand.

"After I enrolled myself for the pre-basic course, also called as adventure course, my passion for mountaineering grew day by day. Later, I opted for an advanced course in mountaineering from the Himalaya Mountaineering Institute, also in Uttarakhand, " recalled Bajpayee.

"As far as yoga is concerned, I am doing it from my childhood days. But, to become a yoga instructor, I underwent a training programme in 1995 from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, Thiruvananthapuram."

Asked what inspired him to perform yoga bare-bodied in freezing conditions, Bajpayee said: "You can say yoga and mountaineering have always been a passion for me. I always thought of doing different things in the two streams so that I can stand apart from others.

"My act in Ladakh was inspired from this only. I want to perform many such challenging acts in the coming days. To perform such acts one needs to practise a lot of meditation. It makes one strong both physically and mentally, " said Bajpayee.

The video clip showing Bajpayee performing yoga amidst snow-clad mountains has become the talk of the town.

"It's amazing to see Bajpayee there...We all want Baba Ramdev to accept the challenge...I don't know who will win or lose, but he (Ramdev) would surely be impressed by Bajpayee, " said Pankaj Kumar, a research scholar and native of Ramnagar in Barabanki.

Deepak Kumar, a resident of Barabanki's Jaitpur area, said: "People like Ajai need to be promoted as they can do a lot in propogating yoga. What he has done is incredible."

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at asit.s@ians.in)
Asit Srivastava
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