Patna, Sept. 11: He is David Robert Stone to the world, but for the yoga teachers at Munger, he remains Alok Murti who never forgot to wish them “Hari Om”.
Stone, 31, who suffers from cerebral palsy, won the gold at the Mixed T 1-2 Road Race in the London Paralympics Games last Saturday. Yoga, he said, calmed him down.
For his teachers at the celebrated Bihar School of Yoga at Munger, around 200km east of Patna, Stone, or Alok Murti, was a keen student who improved a lot after spending time at the ashram — even taking great interest in the daily evening session of devotional songs.
A highly placed source at the yoga school recalled Stone's stint.
“He (Stone) first came to the school in June 2002 and stayed here till August 2002,” the source told The Telegraph. “Apart from physical disability, anger and low self-esteem were the main problems of Stone. He joined the ashram life course which aims to address the behavioural problems of an individual.”
Those joining ashram life are supposed to do community service so that their attitude towards life changes, their egos are controlled and they can rise above self. Those leading ashram life are supposed to dedicate all their work to the spiritual guru of the ashram, Swami Niranjan.
“After spending a few days in ashram life, one could see positive changes in Stone. Though participation in daily yoga sessions are not a must, he started attending them. Besides, he showed great enthusiasm in taking part in different types of activities, including the evening sessions of devotional songs. He also picked up Hindi and also used to wish us with the words ‘Hari Om’ which are used here to greet each other,” said the source.
This positive change has also been confirmed by Stone in one of the publications of the ashram titled Past, Present and Future, where he wrote: “In the past I had tried to control my anger and that usually led to great explosion. Through my practice of yoga I learnt to be more aware of this emotion and to be more accepting to it. Yoga gave me firmer base in the outside world.”
As Stone sought formal initiation (diksha) in spiritual life, he took guru mantra. The spiritual guru of the ashram gave him a mantra which he was supposed to recite, as well as a new name — Alok Murti.
According to ashram rules, the person taking diksha is supposed to recite the guru mantra at least 108 times in a day. The mantra, which is taken from religious texts, is decided by the guru on the basis of the personality of the person. The guru also gives a spiritual name to the disciple opting for diksha.
The influence of two months of ashram life was so huge on Stone that he came back to the school about one-and-a-half months later.
“Stone joined a four-month certificate course in yogic studies in the last week of September 2002 which continued till January 2003,” said the source.
According to rules, those enrolling for the course have to undergo yoga training on a daily basis, which is conducted in the early morning hours and also attend a theory class. One class of relaxation is also conducted in the afternoon.
“Keeping the needs of Stone in mind, the experts conducting yoga classes laid special stress on backward bending asanas like Dhanurasan, Bhujangasan (lifting the upper torso while inhaling and bringing it down while exhaling) and Chakrasan (rhythmic movement of lower back) to make his spine flexible and activate his nervous system,” said the source.
In addition, Stone also underwent the process of nadi shodhana pranayam. This yogic practice helps in cleansing arteries and veins.
Sharing details about the kind of services Stone used to render as part of the regimen of the school, the source said there is no system of deputing any person to any specific work. Instead, work is assigned based on the physical condition of the person. Some of the work allotted to those staying in the ashram are related to cleaning, contributing in the publications, working in the kitchen as helpers and keeping the library in good shape.
Even though Stone had mastered the asanas and had witnessed positive changes in his personality, yet he continued visiting the ashram. His third visit took place in July 2004 when he stayed here for about a month and his latest sojourn was in February 2011 during which he stayed here for about 10 days.
Is the ashram happy that Stone won the gold medal? “For us the spiritual growth of the individual is more important and material things hardly matter,” said the source.