By Dr Ravi P Bhatia – Educationist and Peace Researcher, and a retired Professor, Delhi University. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Indian practice of Yoga is an ancient one that has come to us from prehistoric times from generation to generation. It has now spread to most parts of the world through the efforts of yoga gurus called yogis. It is accepted primarily for its health benefits although practitioners of yoga also enjoy other benefits such as meditation, well-being and a sense of peace and harmony.
People generally do yoga in the company of other people, which gives each person a sense of togetherness and amity. In today’s world where a sense of individuality has become so dominant, where there is an acute sense of competitiveness for getting a job or promotion or whatever, where people are busy with their smart phones and laptops, Yoga gives a simple, healthy opportunity of coming together and learning and sharing each others’ joys and sorrows.
One important yoga asana (exercise) is pranayam or taking a deep breath and holding it for as long as one can. Pran literally means life of which breath is its most crucial aspect. Pranayam thus signifies improving your health by breathing properly. This asana also helps in meditation that all Buddhists practice and which is one of the objectives of yoga.
There is another asana that is called laughter yoga. Here people come together, laugh loudly, boisterously and for as long as possible. The asana appears ludicrous to an outsider who may be observing this for the first time, but it has therapeutic benefits. When we laugh loudly, we are exercising our lungs and heart, with blood flowing into various arteries and parts of the body. This is obviously a simple, easy and healthy manner of staying fit without the use of any medicines.
Why has yoga spread to so many parts of the world? Partly because its asanas or exercises are simple to carry out, and partly since no gymnasium or special equipment is required. All that is needed is a hall or open space where people can sit, lie down on their mats and carry out the variousasanas. When a person starts learning he or she requires the help of a yoga guru but once the basic exercises are learnt one can carry out these individually without the aid or presence of any guru.
Seeing its spiritual and mental benefits and its acceptance in many parts of the world, the United Nations General Assembly declared 21 June as the international day for Yoga, in its meeting held on Dec 11, 2014. This acceptance followed a fervent appeal by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the UN on September 27, 2014. Mr Modi among other things, stated that
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between human and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being…
Despite its international currency some countries do not accept Yoga because it is considered to be a Hindu practice which has religious overtones. One cannot and should not force Yoga upon any person or community that has some doubts or misgivings about it. That is not only politically undesirable; it goes against the very nature and essence of the practice. Yoga is beneficial physically and mentally but this should be accepted by the individual and not be forced upon in any manner.
On a personal level, I have been doing Yoga for the last about two decades. I enjoy it physically, mentally and have a sense of well-being, togetherness and harmony. I hope other people may also try it out and enjoy its many benefits.