Why celebrating International Yoga Day is important for India

It was none other  than Prime Minister Narendra Modi on whose behest the United Nations  decided to declare 21 June 2015 as 'International Yoga Day'.

Export of Indian  spirituality to the West started with Swami  Vivekananda's historic speech at the Parliament of Religions at Chicago in 1893.

It was followed by  setting up of a Vedanta Society in New York in 1894, in Northern  California in 1900 and in Boston 1910. Thereafter many respected  sages visited the US -- for e.g. Swami Turiyananda/Swami Trigunatita  of the Ramakrishna Mission Order, Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami  Prabhupada, Mahesh Yogi, Swami Rama, Swami Vishnudevananda and many  others who planted the flag of Vedanta and Yoga in North America.

Depression in the  1930's and World War II brought an overemphasis on material  advancement. But soon the tide turned again as disenchantment with  the existing forms of worship, the desire for healthy and joyful  living, and the rise of the hippie generation of the 1960-70's  resulted in Americans seeking refuge in eastern spirituality. Many  visited pilgrimage towns - including Steve Jobs who went to Kashi.

In this century,  Baba Ramdev broke man-made barriers to bring Yoga into our homes. He  used TV and shibhirs (camps) to make it immensely popular  worldwide.

So what is the  importance of this unique initiative?

One, as Swami  Vivekananda said, "Life is expansion, and if you stand against  it, you become decadent or you die. It is the sign of our recovery of  the spirit of ancient India - that we have begun to send  representatives of our culture to foreign lands with the gift of our  rich traditions." Selfless sharing of her philosophy and  spirituality has always been part of India's Svadharma. India is once  again getting closer to its true nature.

Two, the  internationalisation of Yoga will aid harmony and peace. India's  expansion has never been fuelled by conquest of nations or the power  of the sword. The high regard that resident Tibetans, Thais, etc.,  have to this day for India's spiritual heritage proves the  non-aggressive nature of India's interactions. Yoga is timeless and  there is something that today's  entrepreneurs can learn from India's past.

In a deeper sense  the practice of Yoga brings balance, inner peace and contentment. It  reduces conflict in human interaction, promotes creative thinking and  innovation. As its practices and thoughts take root in humankind, an  era of transformation can take place worldwide.

Three, it is known  that India is the home of Yoga. With this new global zeal towards  Yoga, its origin and association with Sanatan/Buddhist/Jain Dharmas  now stands reinforced.

Four, Yoga Day also  refers to the various schools and the eight limbs of Yoga before  instructions are given for asanas. It dispels  the often held belief that Yoga is only asanas.

Every nation is like  a brand and has to be associated with key attributes. For example  Italy is known for Nostradamus/pizza, Russia for Tolstoy/vodka, Japan  for zen/cars, China for Confucianism/low-cost products, Germany for  Marx/engineering, etc. So also India's attribute is spirituality  among other things.

Five, just like the  Y2K problem did wonders for India's IT industry, International Yoga  Day could position India as the spiritual capital of the world. This  could lead to renewed interest in spirituality and has huge  employment potential. There would be a greater demand for Yoga  instructors and possibly teachers of Darshanas (schools of  Indian philosophy).

Six, the government  must play the role of facilitator for more training schools and  improve infrastructure in pilgrimage towns. For example a school for  yoga instructors in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur would give locals a  skill that makes them employable worldwide. (Read  Shad Darshanas)

Seven, for probably  the first time, Indian embassies worldwide are tuned to promote  India's rich spiritual tradition. There is no denying that improving  the well being of people is a great way to connect and bond.

It is well  established that numerals originated in India but are called Arabic  numerals. June 21 will ensure that Yoga cannot be appropriated by any  other nation as its own. What is left unsaid is that 177 of the 193  countries in the UN General Assembly supported a India-sponsored move  to celebrate International Yoga Day for the benefit of mankind. The  jingoistic must not believe this support will get us a Security  Council seat!

Should India market  Yoga like a product? The moment you hard sell something it runs a  danger of rejection. People discovered Yoga through word of mouth,  liked it and spread the word.

Indians must become  messengers of harmony and peace and not Yoga evangelists. We must  accept that the world will first turn to Yoga for its physical  benefits. Those who chose to delve deeper might discover Indian  spirituality. The key is to let the user discover at his or her pace  what yoga has to offer, just as Sanatana Dharma is meant to be, a  journey of self-discovery.

Now, a few points on  impact in India.

One, wholehearted  celebration of the International Yoga Day was a Allah-given  opportunity for Indian Muslims to put behind the bitterness of the  Ayodhya movement and reconnect with the 'Followers of Dharma' at a  deeper level. Protests against Surya Namaskar meant the conservatives  have won once again.

Can someone tell  Muslims that the posture in which namaz is offered is Vajrasana. It  is surprising that a  secular Yoga became a problem for some religions.

Nevertheless a  closer look at a picture of Muslim girls doing Yoga at an Ahmedabad  school shows their fingers are in Gyan Mudra pose. Once a child knows  this mudra is good for 'stresses and strains, insomnia, emotional  instability, indecisiveness, idleness, laziness, indolence,  increasing memory and IQ', she will be keen to follow it

For too long have  Indian Muslims viewed the followers of dharma through  British and Arabic eyes. They need to reflect and realise that dharma is beyond the religious concepts they are familiar with.

Two, popularity of  Yoga in urban India is due to its practice in the West and channels  like Aastha. June 21 has ensured that lakhs of Indians, across  government offices and homes, take to Yoga and realise its benefits  in everyday living.

Sadhguru Jaggi  Vasudev put it nicely, "Yoga means to be in perfect tune with  yourself—your body, mind and inner nature are in absolute tune.  When you fine-tune yourself to such a point where everything  functions so beautifully within you, naturally the best of your  abilities will flow out of you."

Practice of Yoga is  inclusive and will help every Indian realise his or her potential.  Spiritual progress invariably leads to material progress.

Proponents of Yoga  must emphasise its scientific basis and call for Yoga departments in  medical colleges and business schools.

Yoga points the road  to peace and harmony, and a shloka is instructive.

Shanti Path
Om Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah,
Sarve Santu  Nirāmayah
Sarve Bhadrani  Paśyantu,
Maa Kascit  Duhkha Bhāgbhavet
Om Shantih  Shantih Shantih

(May All become  Happy, May All be Free from Illness.
May All See what is  Auspicious, May no one Suffer.
Om Peace, Peace,  Peace)

(The author is  an independent columnist and founder of www.esamskriti.com)

First published Click here to view

Pictures  of International Yoga Day Celebrations
1. Hindustan Times
2. Telegraph
3. Indian Express
4. Mashable.com

Also  read
1. Movie History of Yoga by Vishuddhi Films
2. Yoga  might achieve what communism did not by Vamsee Juluri
3. Is  Yoga Hindu practice by Sankrant Sanu
4. Learning to sit still by Varuna Shunglu
5. Origins of Yoga by Brahmachari  Dayaghanachaitanya
6. Surya Yog by Madhukar Soni
7. Introduction to the Eight limbs of Yoga by Prof Gyan Sahay
8. Talk Yoga is a way of Life by Swami Tattwamayananda
9. Why post independent India is at odds with its true nature by sanjeev  nayyar.

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