From the decks of naval ships in the Arabian Sea to the world’s highest battlefield in Siachen and from the cities in the United States to those in China, it was yoga all the way on the International Day of Yoga on June 21. The acceptance and popularity of yoga across nations and communities would have swelled the hearts of all Indians.
It is indeed a matter of pride that over 170 countries had supported the UN resolution proclaiming June 21 as International Day of Yoga. The UN has passed resolutions to commemorate events or mark several other days but the worldwide response to yoga has been phenomenal. No other ‘day’ declared by the UN has ever received as much acceptance and participation across the world as the International Day of Yoga.
As per an official spokesman, yoga asanas were performed in over 130 countries on the International Day of Yoga. From the interviews and visuals, it is apparent that it was not merely a symbolic exercise on that day but the followers of yoga in these countries had been practicing it on a regular basis.
Although yoga is practiced in various parts of the country and several voluntary organisations including Bharatiya Yoga Sanstha have been doing a yeoman’s job, the rejuvenation of yoga in the country can be partly attributed to it becoming increasingly popular in the west. No doubt some of the self-styled ‘yoga experts’ have distorted it out of shape by introducing such mind boggling versions as steam yoga, dance yoga, and even nude yoga to make a fast buck.
But a major credit for the rejuvenation of yoga in the country must be given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his team besides yoga gurus like Swami Ramdev, Sri Sri and several others. The creation of the ministry for AYUSH and systematic promotion of yoga in educational institutions has helped a growing number of people taking to yoga.
Undoubtedly, the push for yoga has also led to apprehensions among a section of the society that it is another ploy to enforce the Hindutva agenda of the government and its ideologue, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). It is also true that some over enthusiast followers have sought to thrust it down the throats of unwilling sections of society. The insistence of uttering Om and exercises like Surya Namaskar have led to suspicion and doubt among a section of the society.
Several radical leaders like Asaduddin Owaisi had taken strong opposition to the “attempt at thrusting Hindutva” by the introduction of yoga in schools and colleges. Some others had staged protests and even withdrawn their wards from schools where yoga was introduced. It should be an eye opener for them to face the fact that yoga is being practiced in over 30 Muslim countries, including Pakistan. In fact, special camps were organised in 35 Muslim-dominated countries on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga.
PM Modi did well to clarify at the main function held at Chandigarh that yoga is not religious in nature. He emphasised that even atheists can embrace it. It was a ‘health insurance’ without a premium which helps in getting mukti (salvation) from health issues. He also said yoga was the way to know yourself “in this real world….yoga is for here and now” and not a promise for what will happen after death.
The institution of two awards — one at the national level and the other at international level — for the promotion of yoga was also announced at the function. Another good suggestion was that the focus before the next celebration of International Day of Yoga should be on prevention and control of diabetes. India has emerged as the diabetes capital of the world. In the first place, yoga exercises prevent the onset of diabetes. Those already suffering from it can benefit by undertaking particular types of exercises to control further spread of diabetes.
At the Capitol Complex, the sprawling area with buildings of the Civil Secretariat, Assembly and the Punjab and Haryana High Court, a lot of preparation went into planning and preparing for the mega event. Top officers from the PMO, the AYUSH ministry, which organised the event with a budget of
8 crore, central security forces, SPG and intelligence agencies have been working in tandem to ensure that the event passes off without a glitch.
Lessons learnt from the event held last year were put to good use this year. 30,000 participants could be accommodated in the Capitol Complex.
Hundreds of yoga classes and camps were held over the last three months to train and weed out applicants. A special three-day yoga festival was organised last week which was inaugurated by Sri Sri and the closing ceremony was held under the guidance of yoga guru Swami Ramdev.
It is now recognised that the regular practice of yoga prevents several ailments including diabetes. The fact that highly qualified doctors now not only recommend yoga exercises for their patients but also practice these themselves is ample evidence of the scientific basis of the ancient science of yoga.
Yet the biggest challenge before the government remains the danger of over enthusiastic and self-serving leaders who may try to force students or workers to undertake yoga, especially, when it seems in conjunction with other steps being taken to promote Hindutva-like change in syllabus and introduction of Hindu prayers in morning assemblies.
To allay fears of the followers of other religions, several yoga experts have suggested that people need not utter ‘om’ and Similarly, they need not look at exercises like Surya Namaskar necessarily as a Hindu prayer. After all, the 12 postures of Surya Namaskar exercise all the body parts and organs.
The key lies in convincing people to take up yoga as a way of life and adopt it in their lifestyles and religious beliefs.