To the rise of Yoga
The fourth International Yoga Day was celebrated on June 21 across the country and the world with much enthusiasm. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took part in a Yoga session in Dehradun along with 50,000 volunteers. Other Cabinet Ministers also participated in different events across the country and various state governments also organised massive yoga events in their states where thousands of people took part in the ancient art of keeping body, mind and soul in harmony. Recognising the health benefits of Yoga, the UN General Assembly in December 2014 declared June 21 as the International Yoga Day, paving the way for the people all over the world to know the benefits of this ancient science to keep the body-mind in complete fitness. At a time when the cost of healthcare is booming and ordinary people are not able to afford it, the UN recognising the practice of yoga in preventing diseases and keeping people fit is a timely intervention.
India has a long history of sages and saints who led an ascetic life and spent their time contemplating about worldly as well as spiritual topics. In order to keep their body-mind fit, they discovered the science of yoga and Ayurveda by closely following nature. Their knowledge about the human body and how to keep it fit till the last minute of human life was not only accurate but also unparalleled. Their wisdom was documented in various scriptures such as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras which clearly describes how to practise the seemingly difficult yogic postures and exercises. An important aspect of their understanding of human life was their knowledge about the human mind and the ways to control it. They inferred that since the mind determines and instigates the human being to act in a certain way, it is important to keep a control over one's mind, but that's not easy. The mind wanders wildly and tries to seek unlimited pleasure which is the root cause of unbridled greed and discontent that lead to conflict and violence in society. Human history is repleted with war and bloodshed that essentially emanated from uncontrolled greed and passion of warrior kings who would never be satisfied with what they had. The end was never a pleasant one for most of these warrior kings and their subjects. Disenchanted by the rampant conflict and violence in society, the Indian saints of yore adopted an alternative life where they lived a solitary life in faraway mountains and forests and tried to find the true meaning and goal of the human life. Their pursuit led to the discovery of Yoga and Ayurveda. They found that through Yoga, people can discipline their mind and keep their body fit and it does not cost any money either. Similarly, the knowledge of Ayurveda helped the people treat whatever little ailment they got inflicted with.
During the long foreign rule, first, by Muslim invaders and later by the British, the ancient Indian knowledge system was systematically suppressed and destroyed. People stopped practising Yoga and modern medicine system was given precedence over Ayurveda. However, the tradition of sainthood continued through the centuries during the foreign rule mostly because the saints stayed away from politics and lived a solitary life. After Independence, many of these saints set up formal ashrams in India and abroad and popularised the science of Yoga and Ayurveda with the result that Yoga became more popular and a money-making enterprise in foreign countries. Yoga is still not as popular in India as it is, for example, in America, where it is a multi-billion dollar industry. Patanjali had compiled Yoga Sutras but after it became popular abroad, it has come to be recognised as Yoga even in India. The meteoric success of Baba Ramdev as a yoga exponent in India is a proof that even Indians are now realising the benefits of Yoga.
Though the Modi government claims the credit for getting the UN to announce June 21 as the International Yoga Day, it has so far not done enough to make it popular in India. Apart from organising the Yoga Day annually, little has been done to make it an integral part of daily life of average Indians. In view of the immense benefits that the daily practice of Yoga can bring about in preventing diseases and keeping people physically and mentally fit, the government should have promoted it with more zeal. There are a large number of yoga experts in the country who can be signed up as yoga teachers and daily and weekly classes can be organised for those who are new to it at affordable rates. This would encourage not only existing yoga teachers to remain committed to it but also inspire others to take up yoga as a career.