Millions twist and bend on International Day of Yoga

I think this will be our last post on IDY. First, your basic roundup. Up first, NPR’s coverage:

You don’t expect to see world leaders getting down on all fours to perform yoga in public, let alone in a mass yoga class that draws observers from Guinness World Records.

But India’s Narendra Modi did just that when he launched International Yoga Day on Rajpath, the central Delhi mall that represents the nerve center of power in India.

“Who would have thought that we would turn Rajpath into Yog-path [Yoga Road],” Modi asked the assembled yoga enthusiasts.

U.S. Ambassador Richard Verma was among the participants who stretched out in a carpet of yoga mats numbering anywhere from 35,000 to 37,000.

The photos with that are worth checking out.

The AP (via USA Today) went with this:

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, state officials said.

“We are not only celebrating a day, but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace and harmony,” Modi told participants. “This is a program for the benefit of mankind, for a tension-free world and to spread the message of harmony.”

The New York Times covered it this way:

NEW DELHI — It was a rare sight — after a brief speech to inaugurate International Yoga Day on Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi descended from a huge stage in front of the presidential palace and took off his glasses and his shoes. He quietly took his place before a sea of schoolchildren and others, mats neatly arranged in a checkerboard as far as the eye could see, to begin what was billed as the largest yoga demonstration in a single venue in history.

Reporters pounced, and a camera lens shattered on the ground. Muscular men wearing International Yoga Day T-shirts held back the crowd. Some volunteers formed a chain around onlookers.

To this, Mr. Modi appeared impervious, lost deep in his practice. After bending and twisting through most of a 35-minute session in unison with an army of more than 35,000 participants, many in identical white T-shirts, he delved into the crowd of children, who touched his feet reverently. When he beckoned, and not a moment before, they rushed to him, touching the scarf he had used to wipe his brow.

Speaking of the Times, it also had this Op-Ed over the weekend:

Since then, interpretations of yoga have multiplied. A number of practitioners, both in India and abroad, view it purely as a set of exercises. At the other end of the spectrum are Shiva devotees aiming for moksha, or liberation from the cycle of life and death, through intense meditation and asceticism. Somewhere in the middle lie New Age variations, the ones with incense and mantras and piped-in incantations of the sacred Hindu word “om,” swirling around yoga studios like stereophonic movie-theater-sound logos.

What’s striking about Mr. Modi’s grand project, given his formative years in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu organization, is the presentation of yoga as a secular activity. His government takes great pains to point out that 47 Muslim nations supported his United Nations resolution. In his United Nations address, he characterized yoga as “an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition,” rather than Hindu tradition.

Mr. Modi’s careful scripting shows him to be a consummate businessman. By presenting yoga as one of the monumental achievements of Indian thought, he is increasing the country’s visibility, promoting its brand on the world market. He will not allow the distraction of religion to interfere with the return on his investment.

You can guess where that line of argument goes.

Posted by Steve


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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