The fifth International Day of Yoga was celebrated with great fervor across the Tristate area, on June 21, 2019, with Times Square in the heart of Manhattan seeing thousands of yoga enthusiast practice in the open, braving the occasional rainfall.
It’s an annual event created by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to highlight yoga both within India and around the world.
The word ‘Yoga’, derived from Sanskrit, means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. It has gained worldwide popularity due to its immense health benefits. It not only helps in improving physical health but also brings about inner peace by reducing stress and anxiety. Medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that yoga offers, corroborating the experience of millions of practitioners.
While previous Indian prime ministers practiced yoga, none have embraced it quite like Modi has. He practices yoga daily and every year on June 21 participates in a massive outdoor yoga session. He has extolled yoga as a way to improve health and concentration, reduce stress, and promote peace, reported the Washington Post.
Modi’s strenuous promotion of yoga is part of a broader push to tap Indian traditions as a source of national pride and international influence.
The fact that a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India is now a multibillion-dollar industry around the globe has not escaped the current government’s attention.
Yoga is source of tourism for India and also an opportunity for Modi – who recently won reelection in a landslide – to portray the country as a spiritual leader. He often speaks of his desire to turn India into a “vishwa guru,” a country which acts as guru, or teacher, to the world, reported the Post.
Studiously absent in the official celebrations of International Yoga Day is any mention of Hinduism. “Yoga is for all and all are for yoga,” Modi tweeted on Friday. The product of thousands of years of history and multiple religious and geographic influences, the question of yoga’s parentage is a complex one.
But its roots in ancient Hindu texts and philosophy make it a natural fit for a Hindu nationalist politician like Modi. For politicians sharing Modi’s views, yoga’s origins together with its enormous secular popularity add up to “the perfect vehicle to create a shared national consciousness,” wrote novelist Manil Suri.
The Times Square event this year saw some celebrities participate too among the 11, 000 people who gathered, including two-time Olympian gymnast Aly Raisman.
The Consul General of India in New York Sandeep Chakravorty, speaking at the event in Times Square, credited Modi’s initiative, and the United Nations declaring it later as an international day of yoga.
“In 2014, when Prime Minister Modi was elected for the first time, it was his brainchild to give it an international face,” he said.
The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 11, 2014 declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. The date of June 21st was chosen since this is the summer solstice which is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world.
The Consulate, in collaboration with Friends of Yoga, celebrated the International Day of Yoga, also on June 23, 2019, at Fair Bridge Hotel & Conference Center, Somerset, NJ.
Over 2000 yoga enthusiasts joined this grand celebration. The world’s oldest yoga instructor and practitioner Padma Shri Tao Porchon Lynch taught some Yoga Asanas at the event. Vikas Khanna, celebrity chef and film maker spoke at the event. Motivational Speaker Gaur Gopal Das also spoke to the audience about the importance of yoga, according to a press release.
Assemblyman Daniel R. Bensen, New Jersey; Philip Kramer, Mayor, Franklin Township, New Jersey; Rajiv Prasad, Councilman At-Large, Franklin Township, New Jersey; and Crystal Pruitt, Council woman At-Large, Franklin Township, NJ; also attended the celebrations at the meet.
“’Yoga for all and all for Yoga’ should be our motto,” said Chakravorty, speaking at the meet.
Various other yoga sessions were conducted by professionally trained yoga teachers.
The meet successfully managed to create a broad based awareness about the benefits of yoga to all sections of the society and also reintroduced the ancient mind-body practice and breathing techniques to a technology driven, fast-paced world, according to a press release.
The celebration in Somerset, NJ, offered a wonderful and enriching experience thanks to the energetic performance by yoga schools and associations. The event also featured several cultural performances by talented local artists and partner organizations, according to a press release by the Consulate.
Alok Kumar, President, FIA, speaking at the event, to ITV Gold, said: “Yoga is one thing that keeps the mind and body healthy.”
H K Shah, Chairman and Founder, World Vegan Vision, also spoke about the benefits of yoga.
A group of youngsters at the meet did Mallakhambh and also some exercises on Mallakhambh rope, both being traditional Indian sports and exercises.
The fifth International Day of Yoga was also celebrated by Dev Yoga, at Auten Road School, Hillsborough, NJ.
Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh, the Founder and Chairman of Parikh Worldwide Media, was the Chief Guest at the meet which saw a packed turnout of participants.
Dr. Dev Ketu, the founder of Dev Yoga, speaking at the meet, said, “Yoga is not only to practice in, morning and evening. Yoga is something to live in, a part of our lifestyle.”
In Interviews to ITV Gold, several yoga participants at the meet, including Jagmohan Hooda, spoke about the benefits of yoga.
Neeru Sharma said she was a practitioner of yoga for the last four years, and her physical problems got resolved with doing yoga.
Jatin Patel, who has been doing yoga for the last seven years, said his body becomes flexible, and he has enjoyed the sessions with Dr. Ketu.
Dr. Parikh, in his speech, extolled the virtues of yoga, saying: “We all eat breakfast in the morning, drink tea in the morning. We need to do yoga too. Yoga relieves our stress, and sets us up for the whole day, with composure.”
Dr. Parikh explained to the audience that yoga and meditation have a role in helping to cure chronic disease.
(With inputs from The Washington Post)