Issue :   
July 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         June 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:May' 2018

CELEBRATING YOGA DAY

No politics, no religion

K Datta

It was an exhilarating spectacle that you saw on the TV screens. Thousands upon thousands of men and women, young and notso-young and of all shapes and sizes, all appropriately attired in track bottoms and specially ordered “Yoga Day” shirts performing asanas as the sun rose on a bright morning on June 21. It was the fourth World Yoga Day, and none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself led the celebration. He chose the expansive grounds of the Forest Research Institute at Dehradun for the occasion.

Handing over his glasses to a security man close to the lectern where he delivered a speech, mostly in Hindi and partly in English, he took his appointed place on the yoga mat in the middle of the impressive concourse and shut his eyes in a meditative pose as the man on the mike intoned “Aum” thrice to signal the start of the actual yogic exercises.

Modi did it all with a practiced ease with which the country is now accustomed to seeing.

Hundreds of miles away from Dehradun, the city of Kota in Rajasthan, known more as a centre where students come from all over the country to prepare for entrance exams, is reported to have found a place in the book of records for having attracted an estimated 2 lakh people for the Yoga Day celebration.

Not that there is anything new or novel about yoga. It is an ancient heritage handed down by Patanjali and practised all over the land. Those of an earlier generation will remember seeing former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the shirsasana pose, not to mention the fondness of another former prime minister, Morarji Desai, for yoga, even if he was not exactly popular for his preference for a particular drink which many jestingly described as a “recycling” beverage. But one of the first things that Modi did as Prime Minister was to get the United Nations to declare June 21 as World Yoga Day.

That gave yoga a new global dimension. From a morning ritual in your bedrooms and public parks it has spread all the over world. People from unlikely countries like Hungary and China can be viewed on TV performing meditative breathing exercises likealom-vilom.

Those who, for reasons of their own, chose to ignore the activities of the morning of June 21 lost an opportunity of doing a bit of good to their mind, body and spirit, which is what yoga is all about. There is no place for political or religious inhibitions when one talks about yoga. Can there be any if one talks of, say, football or hockey?

There has been many a crusader for the cause of yoga long before the World Yoga Day was officially adopted by the United Nations four years ago. Before Ramdev, there were the likes of Dhirendra Brahmachari who, piloting his own aircraft, died in a crash in the mountains of Jammu where he had set up an ashram to train yoga instructors.

Long before the flying Brahmachari there was the venerated late guru BKS Iyengar, whose book on yoga is taken as a bible by thousands in India and abroad. He made yoga famous for, among other things, its therapeutic uses. The case of the famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin comes to mind. Menuhin suffered from a mysterious back problem that defied a cure till a friend of his sent him over to Iyengar. The yoga guru did the rest.

To the credit of sports minister Col (retd) Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, it must be said that the fitness mood was set earlier in June when he performed a dozen, if not more, push-ups for the benefit of the cameras of TV reporters who called on him at his office in Shastri Bhawan.

“How many push-ups did you do this morning?” is a jolly greeting you come to hear in some offices when people meet in the morning.

Rathore, a shooting silver medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, who has maintained a smart, ramrod straight figure, set the right example, and Kiren Rijiju followed by displaying his daily dozen in his chair in the home ministry.

If its not about your morning yoga session or the daily dozen, the Rathores and Rijijus would like to ask if you took the lift or walked up the stairs on your own legs. Any little bit of exercise any time of the day or any place will help. As the fitness message goes: “Aap fit toh India fit.”