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Written by Shalu Chandran,
in International Yoga Day
India took yoga to the world, and now the world will come to India to celebrate it on June 21, 2016 on International Yoga Day.
Yoga continues to enjoy a glamorous identity outside India ever since the west fell for its stretches and sense of calm. What used to be a form of life in India became a trendy form of “exercise”. But Yoga and India go back much longer, and deeper than that. Researchers have been trying to study the birth of Yoga for centuries, with many discoveries, and conclusion, none with absolute conviction.
While many believed Yoga began during the days of Gautama Buddha, around 500 B.C., a more recent research shows traces of Yoga discovered amidst the relics of the Indus civilization which dates back more than 5,000 years ago (circa 3000-1900 BC). As the discussion continues on “when”, the “where” has dutifully trickled it down to its people over the years, and also spread around the rest of the world.
Once commonly referred to as a means of exercise has begun to understand the real strength of this practice. Benefits that go beyond asanas and the body level, benefits that unite the body, mind and breath. Today yoga is practiced by those seeking inner peace, better immunity, better relationships, more energy or just to live with greater awareness of oneself.
The Indian government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone the extra mile to focus on resurrecting this “holistic approach to health and well-being”. The Ministry of Ayush was set up in 2014, with the aim to boost development and support research on Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy.
The government also helped drive the UN-recognized International Day of Yoga for June 21, every year. After last year’s resounding success, this year India will welcome international delegates to its shores on Tuesday, June 21, to celebrate yoga. A 50-member delegate from 20 countries will participate as part of a 10-day FAM trip arranged by the Indian Ministry of Tourism. The trip starts at Chandigarh on June 21 and continues to various wellness and spiritual centers in Hardwar, Rishikesh, Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, Neyyar (Kerala), Puducherry and Chennai. A team of UN representatives will also converge at the event to emphasis on “How Yoga can help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”
As a first step to promote Yoga tourism in the country, the government also recently gave the nod to e-tourist visa to those coming for short-term yoga courses in India. The Ayush Ministry also released a Yog Geet (song) in connection with the celebration of the second International Day of Yoga. The 3-minute-15-seconds song in Hindi was selected through a national-level competition organized by the Ayush Ministry.
In the line-up of events in India for International Yoga Day, Chandigarh’s Capitol Complex is expected to welcome 85,000 people from Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana for a Yoga session with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He will be joined by Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev on the occasion.
In Gujarat, an estimated 1.2 crore enthusiasts are expected to perform yoga on hill-tops across the state. In Ahmedabad alone, Yoga Day celebrations will be held at 1291 locations where over 9 lakh people are expected to participate. In Mumbai, the ‘Mumbai Yoga Fest’, a three-day event will help increase awareness about the ancient Indian health practice and its benefits. In Delhi, a special program is planned at Central Park, Connaught Place which is expected to attract nearly 10,000 people, including diplomats, paramilitary personnel and Delhi Police personnel. Additionally, all across the country and the world, yoga schools, yoga centers and resident welfare associations will organize yoga sessions in their localities.
Beyond India, over 190 countries from around the world have shown their support for a special day for Yoga. In the US, yoga events are being planned from Capitol Hill in the American Capital to the Times Square in New York. Over the years, Yoga’s popularity in the US and UK has grown in leaps and bounds. Yoga was first addressed in the Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda. Since then much of the appeal has been through celebrities. From the Beatles to former First Lady Laura Bush to celebrities including Madonna and Oprah Winfrey or even the US military, has all made yoga a part of their lives. This popularity has seen new forms of Yoga emerging too. Forms that may seem foreign to Indians as yoga once was to the Westerners. Some of these include Hot Yoga, Circus Yoga, Nude Yoga, Pre and Post-Natal Yoga, Ball Yoga (with a ball as an accessory) and even Yoga for dogs (or Doga). There’s also the Acro Yoga (acrobatics) and Hip-Hop Yoga.
But when it comes to yoga as it is practiced in the country of its origin, India has everything you are looking for. So, have you taken your Yoga pledge yet?
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