Living rooms turned into yoga studios as family members stretched out their mats to flex and breathe together in keeping with the theme “Yoga at home and Yoga with the family,” during the 6th International Day of Yoga on June 21.
Organized by the Indian Consulate in Houston in partnership with community organizations, the virtual event brought home the message that yoga is the best way to achieve physical fitness and mental well-being.
Yoga enthusiasts created a sense of community by participating virtually in the session that was live streamed from India House Houston’s Facebook page as well as the Indian Consulate’s Facebook page.
Patanjali Yogpeeth USA President Shekhar Agrawal opened the program by delving into the purpose of yoga and translated some yoga sutras from Sanskrit to English with a brief explanation of its essence.
This was followed by a message from the pioneer of the International Day of Yoga and an ardent yoga practitioner himself – Bharat’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Yoga, he observed in his message “provides multi-dimensional solutions to multiple challenges COVID-19 has brought. Yoga gives you the opportunity to know your immune system better.”
Alluding to the social distancing measures, he noted that “Yoga ends various kinds of distance…distance between our mind and body which is the root cause of many problems. Distance between the life we have and the life we want to have. Distance between our expectations and reality.”
India’s Consul General in Houston, Aseem Mahajan, joined a small group of community members at India House for the session. He welcomed the participants from various cities in the southern states of the US and stated that the growing number of participating organizations “reflects the enthusiasm and popularity of Yoga, despites the challenges of putting this together digitally to enforce social distancing norms.” Invoking yoga’s holistic approach to well-being and health in these challenging times,” he described yoga as a binding force for humanity that goes beyond race, language, culture and gender.
The 6th IDY was commemorated with a celebratory video of the “Spirit of Yoga” produced by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The well-crafted video based on the yoga sutras of Patanjali captured various yoga poses by yoga enthusiasts around the world and was created without any-face-to face interaction.
A series of warm up exercises were led by Amit Khanna from the Indian Consulate and Srinivasan from S-Vyasa Yoga. This was followed by the event’s highlight – a virtual hour long yoga session from Haridwar, India by world renowned yoga guru Swami Ramdev.
Participants followed easy verbal instructions and demonstrations of postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama).
Infusing the session with encouraging words and the benefits of yoga, Swami Ramdev motivated participants to activate their hardware (body) and software (breath) for greater health and inner peace. Yoga postures are highly beneficial for structural balance and fitness but it is pranayama or 11 breathing techniques that can help people build immunity and protect themselves from the risk of COVID-19.
Swami Ramdev stressed the importance of practicing a minimum of two breathing techniques every day. The yoga guru livened up the session and awed his viewers with some extremely challenging poses, all without breaking into a sweat. In a reference to the power of yoga, he revealed that he has been leading back-to-back yoga sessions for 18 hours a day for the past three days while subsisting on a frugal diet of milk and fruit.
Swami Ramdev also lauded the efforts of Sewa International, USA for their COVID-19 relief efforts. With over 3000 volunteers on the ground across the US and over a million dollars raised, Sewa has been helping communities hit hard by the pandemic through food drives and PPE supplies.
In a first of its kind initiative, Hindus of Greater Houston marked the 6th International Day of Yoga by providing scholarships to four students from the African American community. The scholarships will support their training to become certified Yoga teachers.
Yoga enthusiasts from Austin, Denver, Dallas, Tulsa, Kansas, New Orleans, San Antonio and several other cities across the US came together on the digital platform. San Antonio held a successful 12 hour Yogathon on June 20 and raised more than $15,000 for yoga teachers impacted by the pandemic. The funds will be used to award grants of $500 to 30 local yoga teachers who make their living teaching yoga.
Appreciative comments poured in from prominent Houstonians:
Secretary of the Indian Muslims Association of Greater Houston Saeed Pathan said: “It’s always a pleasure to be a part of IYD. This year, COVID-19 didn’t deter us and we all enjoyed watching and practicing yoga virtually.”
In another message, Robert Boustany from Pralaya Yoga stated that “The IDY is an opportunity for all people to unite in peace, brotherhood and health for the welfare of our entire planet and that of future generations while preserving the vital ancient wisdom and the rich heritage of the yogic traditions.”
Director Integrative Medicine Program at the MD Anderson Cancer Center Dr. Lorenzo Cohen noted, “This is such an important day to recognize and more important is that we start to spread this day out to every day of the year. The evidence is clear that those who lead a yogic lifestyle in the fullest sense of the word will not only lead longer lives but they will lead happier, more fulfilling lives….”
In a nod to yoga’s soaring popularity, Apple Watch users were invited to complete a 20 minute yoga workout on IDY by tapping a yoga icon on the Workout Watch App.
(Featured Image: by Bijay Dixit, Unique Photo Images)
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