Sunday 21st June will be the first International Yoga Day. The suggestion made by Indian Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi at the United Nations Assembly in New York, last year, was supported by 175 nations across the globe.
More than a suggestion, it is an offering, an invaluable gift of ancient India which the Prime Minister deposited on the world stage for all peoples of the world to benefit from.
Outside India, yoga has been spreading mostly in the Western world. By going global, greater awareness of yoga will be created and lead, ultimately, to the well-being of all humanity. Yoga is deeply related to science and it appeals to one and all irrespective of culture and religion. It is a sound alternative to a number of human malfunctions at the physical and emotional level. Yoga came to life after long observation of plants, animals and all beings in the natural world by ancient seers of India. As Modiji said: ‘Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfilment, harmony between man and nature, and a holistic approach to health and well-being.’
Yoga sessions at the Queen Elizabeth College, generously held by Swami Venkatasananda’s disciples, were a most blessed gift indeed. I must say that they are one of the best lessons I received at college and yoga has since become a most indispensable and cherished part of my life.
When you are around sixteen or seventeen years old, you start worrying about exams, the future, about yourself as an adolescent and what life has in store for you as a young adult later on. At this age, your mind is not an oasis of tranquility and peace, isn’t it ?
The years of unity and bliss which I felt as a child specially in the natural environment of the back garden of the family house in Triolet, full of mango, guava, eucalyptus, jackfruit trees and huge stones emitting such energy, vegetables and wild bushes lining the sugarcane field were relegated to the inner recesses of the mind and heart during the transitional period of adolescence. And lo! First yoga session on the vast green playground after school hours in an atmosphere of tranquility, the breathing exercise connects you to your inner self, creates an awareness of the movement inside the body and, after a series of poses, generates peace and harmony. It brings back the childhood feeling of One in All and All in One, a feeling of not being in the world but instead feeling the world within you. The Surya Namaskar was just magic as it is still today. It involves a flowing movement of standing up, lifting arms up, bending back, gently bending down, kneeling, lying down, throwing the leg back and then springing it forth and so on.
Soon after leaving college, increasing curiosity on the factors which bring such peace and unity led to the discovery of chakras and the flow of energy inside the body. The first thing that you then become aware of is that most human beings do not even breathe properly and it is a basic knowledge which we should have learnt from early childhood. Lifelong thanks to Swamiji for such a valuable gift.
Yoga has been made compulsory in Indian schools, which is the best thing a country can give to its children to create balance between mind and body. Business companies also organize yoga sessions for their employees. The breathing exercises advocated in hospitals in Western countries to treat patients have been largely due to the training sessions given to doctors and nurses by yoga teachers. One such teacher in Paris was Eva Ruchpaul, a French woman whose husband is a Mauritian national, and who wrote a number of books on yoga.
Whatever be the size of the huge rallies that will be organized in India in several states and more than 30 000 people expected on New York Yoga Day, what matters is the awareness of the physical and mental balance that yoga can bring, and that it comprises simple exercises and breathing techniques one can do at home on a daily basis. The other significant point is that by ‘logging in’ to your inner self, you release energy to different parts of the body and it helps you to realize that the same energy unites the world in different forms of expression – a vision that underlines the fundamental Indian thought that the world is one family.
The benefit of self-control one can get through breathing exercises at an individual level is indispensable for balance between mind and body. Needless to say to what extent unnecessary medical expenses will be avoided if an increasing number of people find the solution to a healthy body in an age-old tradition. If the self-control and peace derived from yoga can be extended to the greatest number of people, we will certainly be living in a much saner world.
We hope that the Yoga Day will create an awareness in society at large in Mauritius. It should be made accessible to schoolchildren to start with. Yoga should also be promoted among a larger adult population to create awareness of traditional treasures divulged by Pranayama and Yoga asanas. The readiness with which so many nations willingly gave their support to the Indian Prime Minister’s offer at the United Nations Assembly points to the quest for something different and more profound that all humanity can benefit from. So let first 21st International Yoga Day be a success.
* Published in print edition on 19 June 2015