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The International Day of Yoga- sponsored by 177 nations

Yoga Day: When world came together at India's call

United Nations, June 22, 2015: The International Day of Yoga (IDY) celebrations here sought to symbolize the unity of humanity as people from around the world gathered Sunday in unique observance of an Indian proposal sponsored by 177 nations and endorsed by all 193 UN members.

People of all races and religions, nationalities and political persuasions joined to perform the 35 asanas drawn from a millennia-old science of the body and mind on the shores of New York's East River.

School children dressed in red sat with the powerful. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was clad in a plain white yoga-themed track suit. Diplomats, rising in unison to do the asanas, called out by the yoga guru Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living movement.

One of IDY's aims is to promote respect for the environment, a topic of great urgency now. Ban quoted from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's UN speech last year: “Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness, with yourself, the world and nature.”

Symbolically, a monarch butterfly fluttered into the shamiana and hovered over the children getting ready for their yoga practice.

The shamiana with a transparent roof had been rigged at the UN plaza because of the rains forecast for the day. There was a thunderstorm the previous night and rain in the morning. Dark clouds hung ominously over the city.

But Indra, the god of rain, let Surya, the sun, through just in time for the celebration. The Summer Solstice sun shone on the city as the celebrations got underway at the UN and at the Times Square, where 30,000 people assembled for the second largest yoga performance of the day, second only to New Delhi's 36,000.

Students had come from far and near to the UN.

Divyanshu Singh, a Class 12 student from City Montessori School in Lucknow, was among 50 students from India who came to New York to perform yoga exercises. “It is an opportunity of a lifetime,” he said. “It is refreshing to see yoga making an impact on the world.”

From New York's suburban Scarsdale came Giselle Omtieki, one of the youngest participants. “It is truly fascinating that young people from around the world get together to experience yoga,” she said.

Elizabeth Resch said saw a role for yoga in promoting the UN's development goals. The Austrian is an intern at the UN office working on developing the post-2015 development agenda. She said yoga can integrate the world and make it a better place.

While its physical aspects made it like a sport that she said she enjoyed, yoga had an important place in developing her consciousness.

For some yoga was a mission. Kripa Devi Denis Licul represents Yoga in Daily Life orgnisation. She said she began practising yoga in her native Croatia where it was propagated by Vishwaguru Maheshwarananda.

“We promote yoga of health and of inner peace,” she said. “Yoga is the path to inner transformation and the balance it creates leads to the realization that humanity is one.”

People of different religions can come together and discover their common humanity for peace, she added.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj emphasised in her speech that yoga was not a religion and should not be seen as belonging to any particular religion. “It is a science,” she said.

Fortyseven of the 56 members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation were among those who co-sponsored the IDY resolution, and not one opposed it.

While some Christian fundamentalists have denounced yoga and some Catholic leaders have cautioned their followers about it, there was little sign of the opposition at the UN or at the celebrations.

A sizeable portion -- if not the majority -- of the participants at the celebrations were drawn from Christian traditions.

Tulsi Gabbard, the only Hindu member of the US Congress, who spoke at the UN celebration and at the Times Square festivities, brought home to America the message of yoga.

The Democrat from Hawaii, who is not of Indian origin, is also an yoga instructor and had served with the US military in Iraq.

Wisdom and spiritual was in everyone but they may lie dormant; yoga can awaken them, she said. This is why the world needed yoga....IANS

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Rise of Yoga Culture in America

India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during his address to UN General Assembly in September 2014, had asked world leaders to adopt an international Yoga day, saying "Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being." On December 11, 2014, the 193-member UN general assembly adopted a resolution by consensus, proclaiming June 21 as 'International Day of Yoga'. The resolution was introduced by India's ambassador to UN and had 175 UN members, including five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as co-sponsors.

Smithsonian, on October 19, 2013 opened an exhibition, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” featuring temple sculptures, devotional icons, manuscripts and court paintings created in India over the past 2,000 years. Several artifacts displayed in the exhibit were borrowed from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the United States. Smithsonian also arranged guest teachers to teach yoga classes on Wednesdays and Sundays during the exhibit days. A symposium on yoga's visual culture for scholars and enthusiasts was also organized. The exhibit was kept on view through Jan. 26, 2014, and then taken to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum for three months from Feburary 21, 2014 to May 25, 2014. The Cleveland Museum of Art had the exhibit from June 22, 2014 to September 7, 2014.
The White House has embraced Yoga as a worthy physical activity. The annual Easter Egg Roll is the largest public event held at the White House. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made 'Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!' as the theme for the April 1, 2014 event.  They also included a 'Yoga Garden' on the Presidential lawn for children and their parents who attended the traditional Easter Egg Roll festivities and arranged a yoga session by professional instructors. The Obama family has turned the traditional event into an active family-oriented day, and included yoga since 2009 as part of the celebration.
For the last several years, yoga and meditation are becoming more acceptable in America. Americans have witnessed increase in yoga studios, meditation centers and vegetarian restaurants, all of which have roots in India. Several New Age gurus, who travel across the globe, have contributed to this popularity. In the United States, best-selling author Deepak Chopra has significantly contributed to Indian meditation philosophy and yoga going mainstream.  
Yoga was first introduced to America by Swami Vivekananda who came to USA in 1893 to address the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. He made a lasting impact on the delegates and lectured at major universities and retreats during his stay of about four years. He started the Vedantic centre in New York in 1896 and taught Raja Yoga classes. He focused on the religious aspect of yoga, which dealt with how to use meditation to become closer to God.

In 1920, Paramahansa Yogananda came as India’s delegate to the International Congress of Religious Leaders in Boston. He established Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles. Today, there are seven SRF centers in California where Yogananda's meditation and Kriya yoga techniques are taught on regular basis.  Again, his Kriya yoga technique is for the realization of God.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought yoga to the United States in 1959 in the form of Transcendental Meditation (TM). TM offered tangible yoga and became popular in reducing stress and fatigue. During 1960’s and 1970’s, TM became “the most widely practiced self-development program in the United States.”   

Yogi Bhajan came to California in 1969 and started teaching “Kundalini Yoga, the Yoga of Awareness.” He was an inspiring teacher and developed a large following. Several of his followers became yoga teachers and some opened their yoga studios in various parts of the world, popularizing yoga for health and fitness.  Thus began yoga evolution from spiritual to physical during the 1970s and 1980s.

B.K.S. Iyengar, considered one of the foremost yoga teachers in the world, was the founder of  "Iyengar Yoga". He was the author of many books on yoga practice and was often referred to as "the father of modern yoga".  His book, Light on Yoga, is called “the bible of yoga” and has been the source book for yoga students. Iyengar brought yoga to the west in the 70s and started hundreds of yoga centers, teaching Iyengar yoga which focuses on the correct alignment of the body within each yoga pose, making use of straps, wooden blocks, and other objects as aids in achieving the correct postures. He was awarded the Padma Shri  in 1991, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the  Padma Vibhushan in 2014.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar established the international Art of Living Foundation in 1981, which is claimed to be operating in 140 countries. He has been promoting the Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing yoga exercise.   
Bikram Choudhary has earned fame and fortune by teaching yoga to Americans by opening heated yoga studios. His style of yoga is practiced in a room that has been preheated to a temperature of 105 deg F. Bikram Yoga is the 26 postures Sequence selected and developed by Bikram Choudhary from Hatha Yoga and is taught in 500 certified yoga studios all over the world.
Swami Ramdev is the most celebrated yoga teacher and has following which runs into millions. He has revolutionalized people’s thinking about yoga exercises. In 2003, India based Aastha TV began featuring him in its morning yoga slot. Within a few years, he attained immense popularity and developed a huge following. His yog-camps are attended by a large number of people in India and abroad. His Pranayam exercises – a set of breathing exercises – are promoted to bring about balance between the body and mind. Regular practitioners claim numerous benefits.
Yoga, once an elusive practice has surged in popularity and its impact is everywhere: in movies, television, advertising, and schools. Yoga is marketed as a series of asanas (postures) that make you fit and help in weight loss. Many Americans have incorporated yoga routines as an essential part of their work out routine. America is now dotted with yoga gyms and studios providing easy access to everyone, including business executives and Hollywood celebrities. Several studies have shown that yoga also reduces blood pressure, back pain, relieves stress and improves overall health. Several doctors recommend yoga to their cancer patients during and after treatment. Over twenty million people in America practice yoga (As per a study by Yoga Journal in 2012). It thus has become as mainstream of an exercise as walking.

There are countless people who are making a positive difference through yoga. Hundreds of yoga websites have all kind of information about yoga, from health and wellness to spiritual and show simple to complex poses. Yoga studios are mushrooming in cities across America. Several entrepreneurs are flourishing in this $30 billion industry. They publish yoga magazines, yoga books, produce TV shows, make DVDs, video games and apps, manufacture yoga clothes, yoga artifacts, yoga furniture and furnishings, yoga foods, yoga tea, yoga energy bars, and hundreds of products and services.  There are also many yoga experts and teachers who have gained prominence in this multi-billion dollar industry. The proliferation of yoga schools, DVDs, and internet has made yoga easily accessible by one and all.  

Yoga has gone through several ups and downs during the last fifty years but now has earned well deserved respect and recognition. At its core, yoga is both a physical and spiritual practice. But for most Americans, yoga is an exercise system that consists of a series of poses, postures and positions. Over twenty million Americans practice some form of yoga to stay fit and healthy. ,,,,,By Inder Singh

Inder Singh regularly writes and speaks on Indian Diaspora. He is Chairman of Global Organization of People of Indian Origin (GOPIO). He was president of GOPIO from 2004-2009, president of National Federation of Indian American Associations(NFIA) from 1988-92 and chairman from 1992-96. He was founding president of Federation of Indian Associations in Southern California. He is the author of The Gadar Heroics – life sketches of over 50 Gadar heroes. He can be reached at


Record turnout for yoga in Paris

Paris, June 22, 2015: While India may have cornered the Guinness Record for the largest simultaneous yoga demonstration, the gatherings in Paris to mark the first International Day of Yoga on Sunday set a French record of sorts of the most number of participants in public yoga demonstrations at the same time.

The flagship event happened at the the Parc de la Villette in northeastern Paris, which was organised by the Embassy of India, in collaboration with numerous yoga associations from all over France. And here, with over 3000 participants, the number was no mean achievement for the organisers as it was close to 10 percent the figure achieved in India, where of course the entire might of the official machinery had been put to work, while in Paris the participation was entirely voluntary.

"It definitely is a big success. For you to manage to get so many French people out in the morning and that too on a Sunday morning before 10 am, is a very creditable achievement," remarked Marc Seviran, a Parisian resident and an Indophile, while congratulating the Indian ambassador, Dr Mohan Kumar, and his team of embassy officials for the successful event.

Dr Kumar, too, in his speech at the event, said that he was overwhelmed and humbled by the enthusiasm displayed by the predominantly French turnout for the Yoga Day and he hoped that events like these would go a long way in promoting a better image and better awareness of India and its very rich cultural heritage, which is increasingly becoming meaningful and a source of inspiration to the entire world today.

The event had gathered nearly 100 yoga teachers to ensure that most of the participants had a guide near-by to teach them the basic asanas that were on the offer today. One teacher, Debiprasad Pramanik, had come specially from New Delhi, after having conducted workshops in Toulouse for the last three weeks.
"I can see a growing enthusiasm for Yoga amongst the ordinary French citizens and it is no longer an elitist thing. It has become a household name and being practised by many at their homes," Pramanik told IANS after the event.

Earlier, before the event began at Villette, over 100 yoga enthusiasts, mainly from the Art of Living Foundation of Sri Sri Ravishankar, had conducted various asanas on board a boat at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Soon afterwards, nearly 1500 participants gathered at Eiffel Tower base to perform Yoga, in an event jointly organised by the Embassy of India and a garments firm.

At Passage Brady in the Indian area of Paris, a Muslim yoga instructor led the demonstration organised by Gopio International and attended by over 100 enthusiasts, mainly of Indian origin.


Poland celebrates International Yoga Day with gusto

 Warsaw, June 21, 2015: Thousands of Polish people came out to celebrate International Yoga Day, not just in capital Warsaw but in public parks and hundreds of yoga centres around the country, showing the growing popularity of the Indian lifestyle philosophy and ancient science.

The Embassy of India with the help of Indo-Polish Chambers of Commerce and Industry (IPCCI), Art of Living and the Polish Association of yoga schools had chalked a well-crafted programme in the 19 major cities, including Krakow, Poznan, Gdansk, Wroclaw and Lodz, much in advance.

The preparations had started since April and Indian Ambassador Ajay Bisaria, being a yoga fanatic himself, went out of his way to make history in Poland. He was largely helped by IPCCI's president J.J. Singh who was selected as the main convener.

In the Polish capital, the main venue was a beautiful park, Pole Mokotowskie, where hundreds of people had come out early in the morning to participate in the display of yoga technique or asanas.

The programme went on the whole day, including yoga sessions for children and pregnant women.

Speaking on the occasion, Bisaria expressed his satisfaction with the response of the citizens and said: "Now yoga has become an important aspect of human civilisation. If on the one hand it keeps a person relaxed, it creates an atmosphere of human understanding and peace on the other.

"In a sense yoga is a way of life and by practising yoga, humankind can achieve many new frontiers of serenity," he said.

There were reports that International Yoga Day was celebrated through out Poland.

In Krakow, under the supervision of Umesh Nautiyal, president of the India-Poland Cultural Committee (IPCC), International Yoga Day was organised.

Nautiyal told IANS: "The response of the people of Krakow has been encouraging. Hundreds of Krakowians have participated. This will help us to start regular yoga classes under the supervision of IPCC in the near future."

Similar positive reports came from Gdansk, an important Baltic town which was the cradle of the Solidarity trade union movement under Lech Walesa in the 1980s.

Sunil Ahuja, president Gdansk Cultural Centre, told IANS: "The response has been very positive and beyond our imagination."

From Wroclaw, Kartikey Johri, a member of IPCCI sent a special report of the International Yoga Day celebration, mentioning the great enthusiasm of the participants.

By the evening all reports are likely to reach the organising committee.

"It is not surprising that the response to International Yoga Day has been great. For the past three decades yoga classes are being conducted in many places and many of the instructors, whether men or women, have gone to India to learn the nuances of yoga and now they are training hundreds of people here. For many it has become a business to earn money also," observed Janusz Krzyzowski, president of the IPCC of Warsaw branch.

"Warsaw alone has more than 200 yoga centres. If one includes all the centres in Poland it will probably touch around 800 yoga centres where people regularly come for exercises and group discussions," said J.J. Singh, the main convener.

Krzyzowski is an Indophile who has penned two dozens of books on many aspects of Indian culture and literature....IANS


47 Islamic nations join International Yoga Day

New Delhi, June 21, 2015:

(IANS/IndiaSpend) There are 47 Islamic nations among the 177 countries of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) that officially co-sponsored with India a resolution to establish June 21 as "International Day of Yoga".

Yoga is a 5,000-year-old physical, mental and spiritual practice rooted in Hindu tradition, a religious origin that has caused disquiet among some Indian Muslim clerics.

This is the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UN General Assembly resolution, according to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The resolution was passed unopposed without a vote.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promoted yoga as a means to project India's soft power. Some critics accuse him of subtly furthering a Hindu agenda, while some representatives of Indian Islamic organisations support Yoga Day, saying that namaz includes yogic postures.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, the UAE, Qatar and Oman were among the Islamic nations that co-sponsored the UN resolution.

Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Brunei, Mauritiana, Cameroon, Libya and Burkina Faso were among the eight members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that did not co-sponsor the proposal for the Yoga Day.

The non-OIC members that did not co-sponsor the resolution were North Korea, Estonia, Namibia, Swaziland, Switzerland, Monaco, Solomon Islands and Zambia.

More than 35,000 people gathered at Rajpath in New Delhi to mark the Yoga Day - among them the prime minister, his cabinet ministers and diplomats.

In addition, more than 1.1 million National Cadet Corps cadets nationwide performed a "common yoga protocol", established by the ministry of ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy (AYUSH). So, too, were about nine lakh policemen and women.

The word "Yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj', meaning to join or to unite and dates back to 2,700 BC, and according to a government document, it is considered an "immortal cultural outcome" of the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilisation.

The government and yoga: close links

Yoga and naturopathy are widely promoted by the government of India, specifically by the AYUSH ministry.

There are two national institutes, the Morarji Desai National Institute for Yoga (MDNIY) in New Delhi and the National Institute for Naturopathy (NIN) in Pune, and one Central Council for Research in Yoga & Naturopathy (CCRYN), New Delhi. Granted Rs.101.5 crore over the last four years by the government, they hold exhibitions, seminars and conferences on yoga.

MDNIY recently started a B.Sc. in yoga science, and there are 18 colleges in eight states imparting a five-and-half-year Bachelor of Naturopathy & Yogic Sciences degree and more than 50 stand-alone yoga colleges offering B.Sc., M.Sc., diploma and certificate courses.

The government has also proposed an All-India Yoga Institute.

(In arrangement with, a data-driven, non-profit, public interest journalism platform. Can be contacted at The views expressed are personal)