University professor emeritus O.P. Dwivedi turned to yoga four years ago to help deal with a health issue and is now a trained yoga instructor who is offering a free class on campus. Photo by Martin Schwalbe

Four years ago, University professor emeritus O.P. Dwivedi’s cardiologist told him the blood flow to his heart was blocked in four places. When other medical issues made surgery to place stents in his arteries impossible, Dwivedi took what might seem to be an unusual step: he began doing yoga.

“After two years, my cardiologist found all the blockages were gone,” he says. “Since then, everything has been fine. That’s due to yoga and living a disciplined life.”

After seeing how much yoga helped him, Dwivedi trained to become a yoga instructor and is now offering a free class every Friday from noon to 12:45 p.m. in Room 103 of the University Centre.

“Anyone can do this pran yoga because it doesn’t require any rigorous physical postures,” he says. “It’s all about breathing exercises.”

Maintaining good health is important to the retired political scientist because he continues to be actively involved in teaching, writing, research, serving on U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team and improving the lives of people living in poverty.

About 10 years ago while touring North India, he discovered that many people there had cataracts and were going blind.

“This was especially true of women because they are often seen as less important,” says Dwivedi. “So when I came back, I talked to my wife and children, and we decided to sell our summer house in Wiarton and take our savings to India and build a hospital.”

Sushila Devi Eye Hospital opened in 2008 and has two doctors and five technicians, along with a walk-in clinic. Last year, more than 8,500 people were seen at the hospital for eye examinations and tests. Many were treated with medication, but 715 had cataract operations. The goal is to do more than 1,000 operations a year, he says.

“And it’s entirely free for the patients,” he adds.

Dwivedi notes that many people arrive at the hospital in rickshaws or oxcarts and live in rural areas where they’re unlikely to find good nursing care. For that reason, the hospital has patients stay for at least two nights after surgery.

“The hospital does between 12 and 15 operations each day, except in the middle of summer when it’s too hot. Among patients, we give preference to girls and women because it’s harder for them to get treatment otherwise.”

Dwivedi is also passionate about the importance of education and helped establish a junior high school in India in an area where few children are able to continue their schooling past the earliest grades. It has more than 270 students and was named after John Meisel, who taught Dwivedi at Queen’s University.

“My wife and I don’t take vacations,” he says. “The money we’d spend on a trip will go so much further if we send it to help with these projects. If each of us does a little bit, the world will become a peaceful and tranquil place for everyone.”

During his long distinguished career, Dwivedi has received many honours. He is a Member of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and has been awarded a number of honorary degrees. But he has never forgotten his humble beginnings in India.

“I came from a poor family. When I arrived in Canada, I had $10 in my pocket. And when I die, I will take nothing with me. So why not help those who are destitute and need to be empowered?”