The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Breathe well to live well

Breath is the indicator of life. But according to O.P. Maskara, it also holds the secret to a good life. The 59-year-old takes time out from his exports business to teach people breathing techniques. “You need to breathe correctly to purify the body,” he says. The benefits, according to him, are many — control of blood sugar, asthma, weight…The mind is also purified, giving one control over one’s senses.

“I only propagate what is there in the Vedas,” says the president of Veda Prachar Trust. Under the banner of the trust, of which he is the founder-president, Maskara organises camps where sadhus come from all over the country to teach pranayam and meditation. The last camp at Survey Park (the park came into being through his efforts during his tenure as president of the Lions Club of North Calcutta) attracted over 15,000 people. “Since there is no entry fee, participants encompass a wide cross-section of society ranging from filmstars to bureaucrats to drivers and gate-keepers.”

Maskara himself “teaches a little” in the weekend at Victoria Memorial. His motley class at the back entry of the monument comprises fellow morning-walkers. “Everyone is welcome to these classes, irrespective of religion and caste. Yoga is a secular way of improving one’s life,” he states.

The man, who has suffered two heart attacks, claims it is because of his yogic breathing regimen that he has managed to keep further medical complications at bay. “After my second attack in 1996, I went to Hardwar and picked up pranayam,” he recounts. Since the exercises made a difference, he wanted to spread the word and the technique. So the first of many subsequent camps followed in 1997 under the Arya Samaj banner.

Maskara’s advice is simple: eat good food to purify the body, read good books to purify the mind and meditate to purify the soul. To help people follow the second prescription, his trust has arranged for a van to go around town distributing books on pranayam, the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Gita, and biographies of freedom-fighters in four languages, including Urdu.

The former deputy regional chairman of Engineering Export Promotion Council also offers counselling to those in distress. “Young people these days suffer from sleeplessness and depression. Usually doctors fend them off with sleeping pills. But that is not a cure. Instead the youngsters should do simple things to put their life on track, like avoiding television at night and waking up early to do meditation and breathing exercises.”

Maskara is organising a six-day yoga and meditation camp from Thursday across five locations in Calcutta and Howrah. “I hope to serve around 5,000 people,” he says.

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