Filipinos join millions on Int’l Yoga Day
Hundreds of men, women and children stretched, bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures in Taguig City on Sunday, joining millions of yoga enthusiasts around the world to mark the first International Yoga Day.
In Taguig, the 350 yoga enthusiasts also rolled their mats, sat and lied down to perform basic yoga postures, like the “Cobra,” “Cow’s Face” and the “The Lord of Dancers.”
Wearing loose-fitting clothes, they showcased their flexibility skills in a half-day session to eliminate stress and clear their minds.
In Manila, yoga centers also offered free classes on meditation and techniques to settle the mind.
In New Delhi, center of the worldwide event, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—who had lobbied the United Nations to declare June 21 as the International Yoga Day—spread his mat among rows of people, including his Cabinet members and foreign diplomats, and transformed the city’s main thoroughfare into one sprawling exercise ground.
Thousands of people dressed in white sat on yellow mats under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Similar events were held in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Beijing and other places to celebrate the ancient Hindu discipline.
Organizers are hoping the event qualifies for the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest yoga class at a single venue.
The current title, according to the Guinness website, was set by 29,973 students in Gwalior, India, in 2005.
Guinness representatives said they hired more than 1,500 members of a global accounting firm to count the number of participants at the New Delhi venue.
More than fitness
“Yoga is more than only physical fitness. We are not only celebrating a day but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace,” Modi told the crowd.
He thanked the United Nations and the 177 cosponsoring countries for adopting his idea for a world Yoga Day.
“This is a program for human welfare, a tension-free world and a program to spread the message of love, peace and goodwill,” Modi said.
5,000 years ago
Indian scholars believe yoga dates back 5,000 years, based on archaeological evidence of poses found inscribed on stones and references to Yogic teachings in the Hindu scriptures of the Vedas.
Modi, a vegetarian who practices the art daily, has made Yoga Day a key initiative of his Hindu nationalist government since he took office 13 months ago.
In New Delhi, more than 35,000 people rolled out yoga mats at a ceremonial boulevard to perform 21 aasanas, or postures, that were kicked off by a prayer and chants of Om.
Saluting the sun
Tens of thousands of schoolchildren, bureaucrats, homemakers, soldiers and ordinary folk took part in the exercise, which was repeated in all Indian state capitals.
In Modi’s home state of Gujarat, public yoga events were organized at nearly 30,000 places, officials said.
In Taipei, more than 2,000 participants rolled out mats and performed 108 rounds of the “sun salutation”—the sequence of yoga poses often practiced at the beginning of a routine as the sun rises.
“They give themselves a piece of time to observe their mind and their heart, which I think in the modern society we need a lot,” said practitioner Angela Hsi.
Yoga belongs anywhere
Fazel Shah, an Indian pilot working for a Middle Eastern airline, rushed from the airport on his stopover in Taiwan to join the event.
“Isn’t it awesome? I mean, just look at the number of people who are here, embracing it,” he said.
He said yoga was probably born in India but belongs anywhere.
India’s defense ministry said that soldiers on the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest battleground in the Himalayas, and naval cadets on navy ships at sea also were participating in the Yoga Day events.
Although Modi’s message was one of peace, many in India were concerned that the push for yoga was an attempt by Hindu groups to give a boost to Hinduism.
Many Muslims objected to the government’s exhortations to join in the public exercise programs. Some Muslim leaders said yoga was a Hindu practice.
The government dropped a plan for the “sun salutation” exercise, which many Muslims found objectionable because it implied the sun was a deity.
Some Christian groups were upset that the yoga sessions were being held at a time when they usually attend Sunday Mass. Others were skeptical about the time and money spent on Yoga Day.
“The government organizes these hyped-up events,” said Sumita Rani, a teacher in South Delhi. “Last year was the Clean India Campaign. What came of it? This city is as filthy as ever.”
Hundreds joined the yoga celebration at the SMX Convention Center in SM Aura in Taguig.
The Taguig activity centered on the theme “Yoga for Harmony and Peace” and was hosted by the Asia Society Philippines, Tech Mahindra and the Indian Embassy.
“Participants saw that yoga is beneficial and suitable to different ages and lifestyles,” Asia Society Philippines said on its Facebook page.–With wire reports
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