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Don't mix yoga with religious tradition

Jun 23, 2016, DHNS 23:00 IST
Yoga was again in the focus of public attention all over the country on the second International Yoga Day on Tuesday. There was a lot of publicity for it during the run-up to the day. The government had planned and pushed the campaign, but it was also taken up by the media and some organisations on their own. Yoga exercises and exhibitions were held all over, including in opposition-ruled states with participation from ministers, officials and others. The day was also celebrated all over the world. There was a special event at the UN and various events in other parts of the world. The Indian embassies had taken the initiative in many places. Since yoga has received international recognition and is practised by millions of people, it is natural that a day devoted to it draws wide attention. It is poised to become more popular in the coming months and years.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the exercise in Chandigarh where over 30,000 people participated. He also did well to state that yoga is not a sectarian practice. It is a health and wellbeing regime developed in India, but it is wrong to attribute religious connotations to it. The physical and mental regime which make the yoga should not be seen as part of a religious tradition or ritual but as a secular legacy like Ayurveda. Identification and mixing it up with religious tradition will alienate many sections of people from it. It should also be noted that there are different yoga traditions and that some of them developed in countries like Sri Lanka and other Buddhist countries, though the practice had originated in India. India can well be proud of its yoga traditions but taking a sectarian ownership of them will not serve the cause of yoga and its promotion.

While yoga is becoming popular, it is witnessing many promotional activities too. Flash mobs, selfie zones and yoga runs were all part of the events on Tuesday. These are attractive ways of celebration and promotion. But anything which becomes popular is prone to commercialisation and dilution of standards. The practice of yoga calls for tutoring by trained instructors and is even individual-specific. A mass movement is likely to throw up frauds and others who take it only as means. Those who want to practise yoga should be warned about it because wrong practices may even damage health. There are plans to introduce yoga in schools and colleges. This is good, but the government should not be seen as imposing it. The practice should become popular by choice, not by coercion.

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