Here’s your International Day of Yoga website

You’ve heard all about the International Day of Yoga. Now you can learn even more at its website.

From news coverage:

PARIS: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today launched a portal for the International Day of Yoga here, describing the ancient Indian spiritual practice as capable of awakening a sense of oneness.

Flanked by UNESCO Director General Irena Bukova, Modi officially launched the idayofyoga.org website after addressing a gathering at the UNESCO headquarters that included a large number of NRIs.

And without further adieu:

The website is right here. Have a look.

Posted by Steve

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‘Americans treat yoga as a workout, while Indians seek something deeper’

CBS This Morning, yesterday morning, had a nearly five-minute piece on why Indians think Americans are doing yoga wrong.

Link, with video included, is here. From the piece:

Lastova loves American yoga and is far from alone. More than 20 million Americans practice yoga. It’s an exercise industry worth more than $10 billion annually. Lastova said Indian yoga simply would not translate in America.

“You pose and stop and pose and stop,” she said. “That’s probably the biggest difference — the freedom of expression in each pose.”

India’s yoga minister counters that Americans treat yoga as a workout, while Indians seek something deeper.

Naik said the technique is what brings the benefits, and with the wrong technique, there are no benefits.

If the Ashtanga police are resounding in your ears right now, I doubt you’re alone.

It’s worth watching the video for the requisite “Namaste” shout from one of the anchors. Sigh. That may make the piece’s point.

If I’m not mistaken, though, you may recognize some of the yogis from the live shot.

Update: If you can find Eddie Stern’s Facebook page, he put his thoughts about it there.

Posted by Steve

Obama in India, namaste and tea

This New York Times collection of moments from President Obama’s current trip to India is about the best sum-up I’ve seen, and it starts with namaste:

President Barack Obama was so honored to be invited to India’s Republic Day celebration that he showed it.

After arriving at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the presidential palace, for an elaborate welcome ceremony, Obama clasped his hands in the traditional “namaste” greeting. During namaste, a person’s head is slightly bowed and the hands are pressed together, palms touching, fingers pointed skyward and thumbs touching the chest.

Namaste often is performed at the end of yoga practice.

Asked about being the chief guest at Monday’s celebration, Obama said: “It is a great honor. We are so grateful for the extraordinary hospitality.”

Obama’s wife, Michelle, accompanied him to India.

The big news thus far is the start of an agreement to allow India to develop nuclear power plants — to help slow its contribution to greenhouse gas.

Posted by Steve

United Nations declares June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’

Not even three months after new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggest the world establish a day for yoga, the United Nations has done just that. From the Times of India:

Less than three months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea, the UN general assembly on Thursday adopted an India-led resolution declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’, recognizing that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being.”

The resolution on ‘International Day of Yoga’ was introduced by India’s ambassador to UN Asoke Mukerji and had 175 nations joining as co-sponsors, the highest number ever for any general assembly resolution.

[snip]

It recognised that Yoga “provides a holistic approach to health and well-being” and that wider the dissemination of information about benefits of practising Yoga would be beneficial for the health of the world population.

For what it’s worth, I can’t find a thing about it on the UN’s own site (including its press center). If/when I do, I’ll link over to it. But there is other news coverage.

Posted by Steve

Some sobering news from India: The rise of ‘superbugs’ among its newborns

I recognize this story might be a bit hyperbolic, but it’s still fairly alarming — and it demonstrates the hurdles and challenges still facing India. From the New York Times:

A deadly epidemic that could have global implications is quietly sweeping India, and among its many victims are tens of thousands of newborns dying because once-miraculous cures no longer work.

These infants are born with bacterial infections that are resistant to most known antibiotics, and more than 58,000 died last year as a result, a recent study found. While that is still a fraction of the nearly 800,000 newborns who die annually in India, Indian pediatricians say that the rising toll of resistant infections could soon swamp efforts to improve India’s abysmal infant death rate. Nearly a third of the world’s newborn deaths occur in India.

[snip]

While far from alone in creating antibiotic resistance, India’s resistant infections have already begun to migrate elsewhere.

“India’s dreadful sanitation, uncontrolled use of antibiotics and overcrowding coupled with a complete lack of monitoring the problem has created a tsunami of antibiotic resistance that is reaching just about every country in the world,” said Dr. Timothy R. Walsh, a professor of microbiology at Cardiff University.

Indeed, researchers have already found “superbugs” carrying a genetic code first identified in India — NDM1 (or New Delhi metallo-beta lactamase 1) —around the world, including in France, Japan, Oman and the United States.

[snip]

Doctors interviewed in hospitals across India said that a large number of the infections they found in newborns were resistant to many antibiotics. Awareness of the problem has begun to grow, with Indian medical associations calling for efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic use. But there is keen sensitivity here to any alert to the dangers. A 2010 discovery of a New Delhi “superbug” caused intense controversy because of fears that publicity would threaten India’s profitable medical tourism industry. Government officials have stopped some studies of the problem, Dr. Walsh said.

The effects of antibiotic-resistant bacteria on treating disease in India could be enormous. Tuberculosis is just one example of the challenges doctors face. India has the world’s largest number of cases, and recent studies using the latest genetic tests have shown that as many as 10 percent of untreated patients in places as far apart as Mumbai and Sikkim have resistant infections. These patients are catching resistant bugs at home, not hospitals, making the epidemic very difficult to control, Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, director of the National Institute for Research in Tuberculosis, said in an interview.

On a totally separate topic, here’s the latest in India’s effort to “reclaim” yoga via its new minister of yoga:

Indian officials plan to reintroduce yoga into all facets of civic life, including more than 600,000 schools, thousands of hospitals and police training centres.

They are also spearheading efforts to promote India’s most famous export, with Mr Modi proposing a “geographical indication” at the UN for yoga – a trade protection normally given to region-specific goods such as Parmesan cheese or Champagne. The UN will consider the proposal on December 10.

“It’s a way of medicine that belongs to India,” Mr Naik told a local TV station. “After the British came to India, they suppressed Indian medicine and tried to foist Western medicine on us – that’s why traditional medicine could not be promoted.”

I know lots of Western yogis are sharing stories about this development on social media, and at the briefest blush it seems all good. A minister for yoga? Great! But there’s lots more under the surface. From the excerpt above, for instance, how will you feel if you couldn’t call your yoga “yoga” anymore — because it had to be based from some school in India?

And would Ashtanga fit that definition, with its Mysore base? Maybe just for teachers authorized/certified?

Posted by Steve 

Momentum growing for an International Day of Yoga

Among the many things Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about at his United Nations speech a month ago was the idea for an International Day of Yoga.

His call is gaining some serious momentum, as this Times of India story makes clear:

As many as 50 countries – US, Canada and China most recently — have signed up for co-sponsorship of a draft resolution which India’s UN mission is preparing for declaring June 21 as international Yoga day.

The resolution will be submitted soon to the UN secretariat with the government looking to aggressively push for its adoption before the end of this year. Perhaps India’s most significant export to the world, the ancient art of Yoga is fast taking centre-stage in Modi’s soft power push.

I’m thinking maybe Asana Across America? (You read that here first.)

Posted by Steve

Checking in on India: Mars, Modi and more

You may have noticed that India’s been in the news this week for a few different reasons, most notably its successful mission to send a spacecraft into orbit around Mars right now:

The much-repeated phrase is that the Mars Orbiter Mission at $74 million cost less than the $100 million budget for the Hollywood space thriller “Gravity.”

At least “Gravity” earned a few Academy Awards.

India’s Mars mission actually cost a lot less than most of this year’s Hollywood summer flops — some of which you probably don’t remember. For example, the budget for Tom Cruise’s flick “Edge of Tomorrow” could have funded two India Mars mission with its whopping $178 million budget.

But the U.S. press also is giving the country’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi, a second look as he preps for his first official visit here. Of note: He’ll be fasting to celebrate Navaratri. From the New York Times:

In the four months since he has taken office, Mr. Modi has disappointed those who were hoping for an Indian Margaret Thatcher, proving to be cautious and incremental in his use of economic policy. Instead, he has set about changing the architecture of the state, diluting the powers of ministries and concentrating them in his office. Mr. Modi is building a machine for governing, one that he intends to operate for a long time.

It is not yet clear whether he can pull it off. To succeed, Mr. Modi must bring about fundamental changes in India’s economy and steer a stable course in a country prone to incendiary conflicts. Observers here, surveying still-unfilled positions in his government, wonder whether Mr. Modi will be able to trust outsiders enough to bring in policy talent. And critics say his concentrated power will make it more difficult for his own officials to question him.

And there’s this from the LA Times:

When President Obama hosts new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for dinner at the White House next week, the leaders will have a long list of issues to discuss: trade disagreements, China’s rise, nuclear policy and counter-terrorism, among others.

One awkward topic neither is expected to raise is that until recently, Modi was barred from setting foot in the United States.

Less happy news was Al Qaeda’s announcement it would begin targeting India. The prime minister has pushed back:

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said al Qaeda will fail if it seeks to spread its terror network into his country because Muslims there “will die for India.”

Al Qaeda announced plans this month to launch a new branch in the Indian subcontinent, in a video message featuring al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

So we don’t end on a down note, let’s get back to Mars. Here’s a link to the Indian Space Research Organization’s Facebook page, which has lots of great photos from our nearby, red planet.

Posted by Steve