Thousands participate in International Yoga Day events in South Africa

International Yoga Day was hosted across South Africa on the Saturday closest to June 21 for the convenience of people who join the events from across the country and even from neighbouring states.
Last Updated : 23 June 2024, 08:59 IST

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Johannesburg: Thousands of yoga enthusiasts from various communities in South Africa who joined the International Day of Yoga events in Johannesburg and Durban highlighted the unity that yoga brings about, Indian High Commissioner Prabhat Kumar said.

Kumar was speaking at the iconic Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, where he joined almost 8,000 people on Saturday to participate in an hour of yoga led by expert Maya Bhatt. This broke the record of 7,500 which was set at the same venue last year.

International Yoga Day was hosted across South Africa on the Saturday closest to June 21 for the convenience of people who join the events from across the country and even from neighbouring states.

Also on Saturday, on the beachfront in Durban, about 3,500 people joined the chief guest, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal province Thami Ntuli, at the Yoga Day event organised by the founder of Sivananda World Peace Foundation, Prince Ishwar Ramlutchman Mabheka Zulu.

He remains the only Indian-origin person who has been anointed a Prince of the Zulu Kingdom for his philanthropic work.

“The numbers we see here are mind-boggling. The energy here is palpable,” Kumar said as he recalled how he had witnessed Yoga Day events in many countries where he had been posted which did not achieve these numbers.

“This is the beauty of yoga. It creates unity and it brings all of us together. In my previous postings, I have seen that yoga takes on local flavour, which are innovations that we should encourage,” Kumar added.

Kumar commended the South African government for having been part of the 177 countries that co-sponsored India’s proposal at the UN General Assembly in 2014 that June 21 be designated the UN International Day of Yoga and for its continuous support locally.

Kumar also thanked the scores of corporates, including many national and multinational companies, which had supported Yoga Day by hosting stands at the stadium, which ranged from lifestyle advice and yoga schools to cultural intuitions and diverse offerings of Indian cuisine.

Kumar said the Indian missions would also soon host an international conference on yoga in Durban.

“Experts from many countries from Africa are coming, as well as the Director-General of the International Council for Cultural Relations,” he said.

Consul General in Johannesburg Mahesh Kumar, who spearheaded the Wanderers event, said technology was being used to gather data on yoga’s popularity in South Africa.

“Yoga is being practised all across South Africa. People from all the nine provinces have taken part in an online assessment survey that we have organised. People of all age groups have also participated in the survey, which we restricted to those above 18, otherwise we would probably have seen more."

“The eldest is 79, and this shows that people see yoga as part of a healthy lifestyle that they would like to pursue,” Kumar said.

Ntuli told the participants in Durban, where the first Indian indentured sugarcane farm labourers landed in 1860, that the provincial government has been a part of International Yoga Day since its inception and would continue to do so.

“It is our fervent hope that this milestone event will become a tourism attraction on the KZN events calendar, attracting enthusiasts from all religions and cultures,” Ntuli said as he recalled how the former prime minister of the Zulu Nation, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, who passed away in September last year, had attended International Yoga Day since its inception.

“It was his express wish that yoga will become part of school learning. He was a very strong enthusiast of yoga and said that it should be entrenched in our nation through introducing it in our schools,” Ntuli said.

The premier also highlighted how yoga could assist in bringing about peace and harmony in the province and the country after the recent elections.

“As we explore the many facets of this new and exciting time in our democracy, it is indeed heartening to see community leaders from all spheres, including political, government, academic, social and cultural sectors – all come together to engage in the practice of yoga,” Ntuli concluded.

Published 23 June 2024, 08:59 IST

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