June 21 is International Day of Yoga. Yoga demonstrations will take place in 251 cities across 191 countries. Some 35,000 people will attend the half-hour session starting at 7 am at Rajpath, Delhi. Thousands of copies of Common Yoga Protocol, outlining the postures, will be distributed. A new stamp is being released to mark the day.
The Rajpath congregation, promising to be a motley crew of unwilling students, sleepy cadets and inflexible bureaucrats, will be bending, stretching, inhaling, exhaling — for what? To break the 10-year-old record for ‘largest yoga class’ held by 29,973 students in Gwalior? Doesn’t it all seem just too much for too little? A day-long tamasha of asanas is not going to inculcate anyone into the committed practice of yoga.
The MEA now hosts a webpage for International Day of Yoga. The fact that the MEA is spearheading the show means this isn’t just to get our babus bendy; this is the ghar wapsi programme of yoga itself. We have all seen evidence of yoga taking over the east and west coasts of the US — photos of mats laid out at Times Square in New York and the profusion of ashtanga classes. An AP article in September reported that sales of jeans fell 6 per cent during 2014 after decades of almost steady growth. Why? Because people were choosing yoga pants and leggings instead! The western world is making yoga popular and India shall have none of that. Instead we will declare it International Yoga Day in a bid to establish our own soft power.
At the 69th session of UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change.” Pardon my ignorance, but I am not sure how breaking records and rallying crowds creates oneness and harmony. And what can pranayam do for the ozone layer?