The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the forum for celebrating International Yoga Day but it certainly could not kill the spirit of those determined to observe it, more than ever as a beneficial practice in this time of crisis.
In that spirit, the Federation of Indian Associations in the tri-state area, held a video conference on Zoom joined by hundreds of participants to celebrate the Sixth International Yoga Day, June 21, 2020, a day designated by the United Nations following an initiative launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in 2014. The IDY began to be celebrated globally by at least 175 countries from 2015.
Since the inception of the International Day of Yoga, the FIA, in partnership with the Consulate General of India in New York, has celebrated the day which highlights the importance of yoga, the FIA said in its press release.
Yoga enthusiasts of all age groups logged on to the virtual celebration on Zoom, which included five simultaneous yoga segments, taught by renowned yoga teachers. The event was very well received by The Indian diaspora, maxing out the capacity of the streaming platform, the FIA noted.
The ancient Indian spiritual practice has been embraced in the Western world by millions of people, and during the COVID-19 pandemic in particular, it promises to become even more popular as citizens grapple with rising numbers of people suffering from stress, anxiety and depression.
As Prime Minister Modi said in his message to the nation on IYD 2020, “Yoga provides multidimensional solutions to the multiple challenges Covid-19 has brought.” His message was played at the FIA event. Yoga not only boosts the immune system, and in this age of distancing, “Yoga is that which brings things together – bridges the distance between mind and body, between the life we have and the life we want to have …” the Prime Minister said, adding that he expected yoga to become even more popular than it is today.
The Zoom conference hosted by the FIA with numerous partner organizations, saw some 500 people log in maxing out the capacity of the streaming platform, Anil Bansal, president of FIA-NYNJCT, told Desi Talk. “Unfortunately, because of the limits, some people got left out,” Bansal said. During the online event, Bansal called yoga the “greatest gift” from India to the world.
The tri-state FIA represents some 100 area associations of the Indian-American community.
Speakers at the online event, got to hear India’s Consul General in New York Sandeep Chakravorty in one of his last public appearances as he prepares to depart at the end of his tenure.
Chakravorty thanked the FIA for being a long-time partner to the Indian Consulate and government. He remembered and mourned Ramesh Patel, one of the founders of FIA who died June 6, 2020, from COVID-19.
The Consul General noted how this June 21 was a particularly auspicious day when along with IYD, it was also the summer solstice, Father’s Day, and a day when parts of the world would witness a solar eclipse. “Today is the coming together of celestial as well as manmade phenomena,” he said. In these trying times, yoga was a support for those under mental and physical stress, Chakravorty said, and noted Prime Minister Modi’s words about how yoga was a tool for maintaining balance, particularly when people are not able to step out or socialize.
“Yoga is not only asanas, it is a way of life,” Charavorty said, “About being in harmony with nature, other human beings, and the environment.”
COVID-19, he said, had “cruelly highlighted how we have been going astray.” He congratulated FIA on its 50th anniversary, and took the occasion to bid farewell as he leaves within a week.
“Ghar Ghar Se yoga karen, Khush rahen, swasthya rahen” (Do yoga from home, stay happy, stay healthy) Chakravorty concluded.
“We are really grateful to the CG for coming and speaking,” Bansal told Desi Talk. He also thanked FIA staff as well as individuals and organizations that joined in making it a success, including Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media and ITV Gold, as well as Avinash Gupta, president of Shree Siddhivinayaka Temple USA and Bihar Jharkhand Association, Hemant Bhatt of the South Asian Republican Coalition, Rina Shah of AUM Dance Creations, Rajiv Desai of Vaishnav Parivar of Connecticut, Vamsi Tamanna of Om Sai Balaji Temple, Sunil Hali of Radio Zindagi, technical expert Rohit Korat of Gracia Marcom. the Malayalee Association of Connecticut, and India Culture Club of Vermont.
Dr. Parikh told Desi Talk yoga was a practice everyone around the world should follow and praised Prime Minister Modi’s initiative to make it a global event.”As we know, yoga should be part of a daily routine. It helps the heart and boosts the immune system, and gives a general feeling of wellbeing. And you need just ten to fifteen minutes daily. If done it’s like an adrenaline shot for the whole day. It’s a proven technique known to Indian culture for thousands of years,” he noted.
Some of the yoga teachers and those knowledgeable of this ancient practice also joined to teach the gathering and spread awareness about it. They included Kavita Thotakura of Kavi’s School of Dance, Mitali Das of Taarang With Mitali Dance School, Aashka Amin, trained in Vinyasa and Yin yoga who guided the Kids For Yoga segment during the Zoom call, Eddie Stern, an author and lecturer of Ashtanga yoga, Rahul Bhalerao of Subodh Yoga, and Vijay Kumar of Vihangam Yoga.
Speakers gave an overview of the importance of yoga and talked about how yoga has integrated into a person’s daily life.
Vijay Kumar of the North American Institute of Vihangam Yoga talked about the different forms of yoga and their significance and stressed on the importance of asana and pranayama. “Asana is irreplaceable,” Vijay Kumar said, as it not only stabilizes the outside body but also works on the organs inside the body. He conducted a session on ancient meditation techniques.
Eddie Stern, a New York-based Ashtanga Yoga teacher, author, and lecturer, conducted a session on beginner yoga where he taught attendees some breathing techniques, basic asanas and modified Surya Namaskar or sun salutations.
Aashka Amin, a certified yoga teacher, conducted the kids yoga session. She has been trained to work with kids, especially with disabilities and trauma. She believes that yoga can provide much-needed relief to troubled kids and those with special needs.
Rahul Bhalerao of Subodh Yoga focused on Raj Yoga meditation, a simple form of meditation without rituals or mantras and can be practiced anywhere at any time.
Mitali Das focused on pilates, a physical fitness system developed in the early 20th century by Joseph Pilates, after whom it was named. Pilates primarily focuses on trying to relax muscles which are tense and provide strengthening of the numerous muscles of the body.
” Yoga is one of the greatest gift from Bharat to the world. Besides, so many benefits of yoga, improving our lung resilience have become more pronounced during this COVID crisis,” Bansal said. “Though the online conference cannot compare to the real thing, given the circumstances, it was really good,” he added.
Deputy Consul General of India Shatrughna Sinha said the Consulate partnered with a number of organization in the week leading to the formal International Yoga Day, when it joined with FIA, and also hosted “Ghar Ghar Se Yoga- Yoga at Home” where Congressman Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, a former presidential candidate, was the keynote speaker. Ryan, a great yoga proponent, spoke highly of the benefits of yoga, which he said could be a “physical” rather than “religious” practice.
Alok Kumar, FIA’s immediate past-president and one of the organizers of the Yoga Day 2020 celebration, said the International Day of Yoga initiative from the Government of India, “has added a positive vibe” to millions across the world. He conveyed his gratitude to Consul General Chakravorty, and the CGI-NY Team as well as the Yoga 2020 team, including Himanshu Bhatia, Saurin Parikh, Falguni Pandya, and Andy Bhatia, for successfully implementing all the logistics and coordination needed to make the event a “grand success.”
“The virtual event was deemed very successful. The FIA team, once again, maintained its commitment to bringing authenticity and spirit of community in each of their events,” the FIA organization said in its press release.