India has contributed a lot to the civilized world – and Yoga is definitely in “top 10” category . In a world where everyone seems to be stressed out , celebrating a day in honor of the ancient practice of yoga makes a lot of sense to me . Plus – it is a huge honor for India.
I am not a practitioner of yoga – but my mom, my father in law and several others in my extended family , as well as several friends and colleagues are yoga practitioners . I would resist the temptation to call them yogis , given I grew up listening to tales of yogis who have moved on to a different plane of mind . These folks I know – to the extend I know – are kind of early in that journey , and do it today mostly in lieu of daily exercise . I definitely am planning to start learning yoga asap.
I saw some folks resisting international yoga day by attaching religious reasons for that . This makes very little sense to me, who grew up celebrating Christmas and Eid just as much as Onam and Vishu . For those folks – I hope they are tolerant enough to view it as a way to honor their country and a good way to get some exercise . Diseases of body and mind don’t descriminate between Hindu and Muslim .
It would be naive to think there is no religious aspect to BJP government pushing for yoga day . There are many hardliners in the ruling party who think India is for Hindus , and they may look at yoga as a Hindu tradition . But that is misguided . It’s hard to correct these people – so let them be .
That is all the good stuff . Now about some things that bother me about yoga day .
Amongst the most pressing problems that need attention , yoga is not a top ten item for India . A good number of people cannot eat three meals a day in this country . Similarly the health care situation is pretty pathetic for a large section of society . Those are all things that need a lot of time and resources to fix . A hungry man would choose food over yoga every day of the week , how much ever it is advertised .
Then there is the issue of pollution . Between the increase in number of cars , the felling of trees , the number of houses and offices that use air conditioning and so on – air pollution is significant in pretty much every big city in India . Practioners of yoga – especially those that do it outdoors – are going to deeply inhale highly polluted air . I have to wonder if there is any point to this exercise , including the spectacle of Guinness record winning crowd in Delhi doing it in public .
Talking of pollution – water and food are also subjected to poisonous stuff to a great degree . In the last three weeks here on vacation , I saw three separate programs on local TV showing heavy use of chemicals on fruits and vegetables . Several people I know are now growing their own vegetables because they can’t trust the stuff they buy in open markets . What exactly is the point of doing yoga and then eating and drinking such polluted food and water ?
Hopefully there will be great planning and execution by the government to make India holistically healthy , and that this yoga day is just a good first step .