30,000 expected at New York's International Yoga Day celebration
New York, June 17, 2015: As the world celebrates International Day of Yoga on Sunday in a unique event that is in many ways an endorsement of the Indian way of life, more than 30,000 people are expected to participate in a mass demonstration of the ancient art in the city's Times Square after global leaders and diplomats from around the world launch the observance at the UN headquarters.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to deliver the keynote address at the start of the day's celebrations at the UN headquarters in an open plaza along the East River, India's Permanent Representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji told reporters here Tuesday. General Assembly President Sam Kutesa and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj are slated to speak on the occasion along with representatives of some of the nations that co-sponsored the International Day of Yoga resolution.
Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation is to give a lecture on the benefits of yoga and lead a demonstration by several hundred people at the UN and, through a video link, the thousands on Times Square, which is known as "the crossroads of the world."
The UN celebrations are to be webcast on the UN network () and also shown on the NASDAQ market building's giant, seven storey-tall video screen and others on Times Square.
"Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spirtual health and well-being," Ban said in his message for International Day of Yoga. "It promotes respect for one's fellow human beings and for the planet we share."
He said that he had tried out yoga by doing the tree pose or Vrksasana and "appreciated the simple sense of satisfaction that yoga can bring."
A manifestation of the universal value of "vasudhaiva kutumbakam" -- the world is one family, the UN General Assembly resolution for International Day of Yoga was co-sponsored by 177 nations and adopted by acclamation by the 193-member organisation, Mukerji said. This was the largest number of co-sponsors ever for such a resolution, he added.
The idea of an International Day of Yoga was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the General Assembly last September, calling yoga "a holistic approach to health and well being" and to finding "the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature."
"Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; the harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature."
For yoga day to be observed starting this year, Mukerji said the resolution for it had to be passed by the General Assembly before the end of last year but the calendar had already been set with no room for fresh items.
The Indian Mission found a way around this by invoking the association Modi made between health and yoga, Mukerji said. They had the Yoga Day resolution introduced as part of the health agenda that was already on the calendar for December, he said.
The Mission brought the full force of multilateral diplomacy to bear on the project, he said. The Indian diplomats were able to have the 18 co-sponsors they initial had snowball to reach a total of 177 co-sponsors. And when both the United States and China signed on, the effort gained momentum.
Asked by a reporter about the role of Muslim countries as co-sponsors and the controversies raised in India by some Muslims, Mukerji said yoga was presented as a health matter with no religious undertones and he pointed out that 47 of the 56 members of the Muslim grouping, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, joined as co-sponsors. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did not co-sponsor, they did not object to the resolution either.....IANS
Commercialisation of yoga: Boon or bane? (June 21 is International Yoga Day)
New Delhi, June 19, 2015: From the tranquil environs of a forest or mountains, yoga is now increasingly moving to air-conditioned enclosures within homes, fitness centres or attractive resorts. While commercialisation has surged the popularity of yoga, glamourising it to suit modern taste, this has also taken away the authenticity of the age-old discipline, say experts.
Nupur Sikka, director of Ganga Kinare, a riverside boutique hotel in Rishikesh - a city touted as 'World Capital of Yoga' and home to many ashrams and spiritual gurus - feels that "commericialisation has both positive and negative impact".
"We really need to treasure the traditional yoga style and maintain its authenticity rather than mixing up different styles of yoga," Sikka told IANS.
The origins of yoga - which helps in physical and mental well-being - have been speculated to date to pre-Vedic Indian traditions. Later, yoga gurus from India introduced the discipline to the west. It is estimated that 250 million people around the world practice yoga, over 20 million of them in the US.
It has evolved into forms like hot yoga, power yoga, Ashtanga yoga and more.
Now, with the world ready to celebrate International Yoga Day on June 21 - proposed to the UN by by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and accepted with acclamation - experts hope its popularity gets a further boost.
“The affirmation coming from one of the highest offices in the country surely helps people shed their cynicism and develop an honest inquisitiveness. The fact that Modi himself is a trained yoga practitioner has further helped in promoting yoga,” Manisha Kharbanda, a 28-year-old practitioner and proponent of yoga for almost two decades, told IANS.
Kharbanda, who founded BrahmYog, a Patiala-based initiative committed to spread the benefits of yoga, stressed that “yoga is an education and commercialisation of any type of education is not good".
There are some, like IT training company Koenig Solutions, who give free yoga classes not only to their employees, but also to underprivileged children.
On the flipside, a major benefit of the commercialisation of yoga has been the increased accessibility of the practice to the masses. Today, yoga is being offered in more venues, in more styles and of course more teachers, but Kharbanda believes that to keep a check on ensuring the promotion of authentic yoga, certification of yoga teacher from right institute must be a prerequisite.
“The idea of certifying yoga teachers through the ministry of AYUSH will be a welcome step and will ensure that people learn yoga the way it was evolved by our forefathers,” added Kharbanda, who holds four batches of yoga classes everyday.
Also, with the burgeoning popularity of yoga among the young and old alike, it has created space for multiple training centres.
Bikram Yoga, an international chain, has opened its first franchisee in India. For a monthly membership of Rs.6,000 exclusive of taxes or an annual membership of Rs.50,000 plus tax, it is attracting customers.
“Till now, 50-plus people have joined the classes in a period of one month while over 150 have taken a trial and have liked it. Many are eager to join. We have members from various age-groups ranging from 13 to 70,” Bikram Yoga owner Pallavi Aggarwal told IANS.
The fact that yoga is turning out to be a huge business globally is also proven by the variety of designer apparel and practice mats available in the market. And it's only poised for growth.
“The interest of yoga in western countries is much more than India. In fact, yoga in the west has already taken off... It has much to do with government's initiative because that is a force which guides people in a certain way,” Navneet, assistant general manager, Kairali Yoga at Kairali Ayurvedic Group, told IANS.