India-the politics and business of Yoga

Lata Jain

The first International Yoga Day was celebrated across the globe on Sunday. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the celebrations by practicing ‘asanas’ along with nearly 37,000 participants during a mega event at Rajpath in Delhi. During the event the Prime Minister described yoga as a means to train the human mind to begin a new era of peace and harmony.

He proposed it to the United Nations last year and offered June 21 as a suggested date because it was also summer solstice. People joined in France, China, Egypt, and Afghanistan. And, of course, in India.

Top BJP functionaries, from Union ministers to chief ministers, went out on a limb to make a grand success of the International Yoga Day on Sunday. “Yoga cannot be confined to any religion. It’s an exercise to stay healthy and find peace. Yoga literally means to add. It is living up to its meaning and bringing together people of the world expressed Chouan. Even Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, has been seen, shoeless, practicing his yoga in Delhi.

In Jammu, braving morning rains, Union minister at PMO Jitendra Singh led the Army, BSF and other paramilitary forces like NCC and into the event of the day with around 1,500 people at the Gulshan Ground.

“There is nothing political about yoga,” Singh said, adding, “But if politics benefits an individual then such type of politics must be performed daily.” The day was observed by BSF troopers and their family members with gusto.

“Any convict who does yoga and also leads a disciplined life as per jail manuals will have to serve 30 days less of his jail term. It applies to all the 180 jails across the state,” Gaur told. Jails should be ‘sudhargriha’ (reform home) not ‘bandigriha’ (prison), Gaur said.

The brain child of Narendra Modi who also succeeded in promoting Swacch Bharat mission with the same tempo has received support from public, opposition and media.

There were initial hiccups. There was resistance as it was perceived that yoga has Hindu value. The Indian Government has announced an International Yoga Day making it compulsory for everyone to observe. However, it should have been introduced as an option, giving complete freedom to choose, rather than making it compulsory. The word “compulsory” was not liked by the public.

Yoga is wrongfully perceived as a Hindu value.  The problem is two sided; in the US a few years ago, the Christian fundamentalists declared Yoga was a Hindu thing and Christians should not follow it the other side of the coin is the fundamentalist Hindus claim that Yoga is a Hindu value and westerners are usurping it, stealing it as their own. Both are wrong, good things are good things and for all people.  Because of the fundamentalist Hindus, Yoga is perceived as a Hindu thing. Some Muslim preachers and opposition politicians have accused Mr. Modi of using the day to foist Hinduism on religious minorities under the guise of yoga.

yoga’s evolution has been inextricably linked with that of Hinduism. The word itself, linguistically related to “yoke,” first appears in the Rig Veda, around the 15th century B.C., to describe a chariot yoked to horses, in which a felled war hero might ascend to the sun.

No religion disapproved of Yoga. History reads that Mughal emperor Jahangir commissioned a Persian text, Bahr al-Hayat, which depicted 21 asanas. Swami Vivekananda, the Hindu reformer, became a sensation after presenting yoga to the West as a scientifically based philosophy Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.None disapproved.

In all Modi has proved a point and has successfully scripted his insight in increasing the country’s visibility, promoting its brand on the world market. Yoga is a big business today, in US estimated at $10 billion a year in the United States. One can imagine the mammoth influx of tourists to India if the promotion continues.

As a result of increased awareness towards wellness and health-related activities, this sector poses great investment opportunities in the areas of setting up specialized treatment centres, spas and rejuvenation treatments as well as Ayurveda drug manufacturing. Baba Ramdev’s Patanjali Ayurved alone recorded revenues of Rs 1,200 crore in the fiscal year 2014, and claims to have crossed Rs 2,000 crore last year.

Besides the mushrooming of boutique yoga studios, the business of yoga has also sprouted a lucrative ancillary market. Yoga apparels, yoga cafes, yoga mats and accessories are big money magnets. Indian brands like Urban Yoga, Forever Young, Do you Speak Green and Isha Shoppe to global ones like Prana and Yogasmoga are all showing how it is done in style.

In all Prime Minister Modi deserves appreciation to mobilize

Such large population of Indians and motivate other countries to practice yoga for their well being. Modiji has proved that he possesses the perseverance, assertiveness and authority needed to bring together such a diverse population in spite of criticism from several quarters.

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