Blog Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 05:30
  By Abhay Shivnani On December 11, 2014, PM Narendra Modi achieved a formidable feat of getting 177 members of the United Nation General Assembly to ratify a resolution to celebrate June 21 as International Day of Yoga. Member nations practicing religions like Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Confucianism and even Islam were part of that group which endorsed it. But in the ensuing months, back home in India, the PM and his grand plans for Yoga were met with stiff opposition. Sections of society called it yet another ploy by BJP to impose Hindutva on others. Some reports suggest that the Catholic Bishops Conference too is opposed to IDY being celebrated, this time, on a Sunday which is considered sacred for Christians.  But what is the clamour over DIY really about? While roots of Yoga do lie in Hinduism, over the years, it has successfully managed to disentangle itself from the holds of religion and has become a way of life-with physical and mental fitness at its core. Like many other Hindu concepts, Yoga too has evolved and is now almost a secular entity.  In India today, Yoga might be best associated with the likes of Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Mata Amritanandamayi and Jaggi Vasudev. And those objecting to IDY, possibly through the association of these exponents, are giving it a religious hue.  But across the world, more than the above mentioned names, BKS Iyengar’s name is resonant with the art of Yoga. He is known as someone who freed Yoga from the clutches of the elite Hindu and, at the cost of committing heresy, presented it to non-Brahmins and women. For decades, BKS taught millions across the globe the art of self-improvement and discipline. At a time when India was still seen as a land of snake charmers and sorcerers, BKS travelled vastly across the west fighting racism and discrimination at every step. He then went on to start Yoga centres in six continents across the planet. In 2014, when he breathed his last at the ripe age of 96, thousands across the world paid tribute to this Yoga master whom they fondly called Guruji.  Maybe the Yoga that BKS taught the world is more tolerable to people from all faiths. There is nothing blasphemous about Yoga for Islam either. While there isn’t a unanimous opinion on whether Yoga violates anything in the Shariah or not, many suggest that if Muslims look at Yoga as an artistic exercise rather than a philosophy, it would be more acceptable.  Islam clearly encourages taking care of health and body. Yoga is not practised only for alleviating pains but is known to be a stress-reliever too. The psychological benefits of Yoga include improved concentration, relieving anxiety and depression, and can even help battle traumatic experiences.  Maybe the focus should only be on the asanas and not the mantras that accompany some asanas. The government of India has been clear that IDY is not mandatory for those who don’t want to take part in its celebrations in India.  What is baffling is that 47 Arab countries too have, in the UNGA, evinced their support to IDY. What, then, is the roadblock for the Muslim organisations in India who are protesting against IDY so vehemently?  Would IDY be more acceptable if it had been proposed by a ‘secular’ government, say UPA? Are many opposed to IDY just a habit of differing from most things put forth by the Modi government by perceiving it as propaganda of Hindutva? If that’s the case, then the idea of India is put in as much jeopardy as it is when extreme right wingers’ repeat rants of sending people who don’t toe the line to Pakistan. Also Read: Tirumala Brahmin Wars: Why does it matter what shape the 'namam' is?  
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