by Manu Shah
Despite the scorching sun, about 1200 yoga practitioners took over the lawns at Midtown Park on June 21st to celebrate the 5th International Day of Yoga (IDY) organized by the Indian Consulate of Houston. It was a record turnout and proof that Yoga awareness is growing exponentially and helping millions of people around the world lead healthier lives.
Prior to the main program, Austin Dunn, Marion Hall, Samuel Parmer and Wayne Campbell displayed some of the most mind boggling poses in yoga to demonstrate what our bodies are capable of if we put our mind to it.
Emcee and renowned yoga teacher from Patanjali Yogpeeth Trust, USA, Shekhar Agrawal welcomed the “yogis and yoginis” and described yoga as “a balanced study of the body, mind and intellect.” An invocation dance to Adiyogi or the first yogi Shiva, set the mood for the evening and was performed by Meera Borle and Veda Charthad from the Anjali School for Performing Arts.
A practicing yogi himself, Consul General Dr. Anupam Ray’s cheerful greeting showed that he was equally eager to hit the yoga mat. In a brief address, he noted that what began as one event in Houston three years ago is today being celebrated at 200 places in Texas and expected to be attended by 15000 people. Houston’s yoga program was coordinated by community leader Sharad Amin with the support of several city organizations and they were recognized prior to the event.
The formal yoga session began with the chanting of a Sanskrit prayer “to channel our energies” by Swami Vishvang accompanied by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh children. Six of the city’s top yoga instructors led the common yoga protocol prescribed by the Government of India. Vishwarupa Nanjundappa of SVYASA Yoga walked them through the warmup and standing practices, Olivia Keller of Black Swan Yoga with the sitting and lying down asanas (postures), Marlon Hall of Big Power Yoga Studio guided the Shravasana (Corpse Pose,) Pam Johnson of Heights Schools of Yoga led the Pranayama (breathing exercises) while the meditation practice was guided by Mark Ram of the Brahmakumaris.
Calming music during the relaxation session was provided by co-founder of YOUniverSoul Saumil Manek – a spiritual entrepreneur whose efforts are aimed at “bringing oneness in the community and changing the world with actions and beliefs.”
You’re never too old for yoga. This was proved by Ratanlal Jaju, a 97 year old yoga teacher who was invited on stage with the lead teachers and did the asanas with ease. Ratanlal Jaju runs a free yoga studio in Hyderabad, India and has made teaching yoga his service to humanity.
Proclamations were presented by Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George and Congressman Al Green. Congressman Green’s representative, Sam Merchant, while presenting the proclamation, explained how as a teenager, he was advised to undergo joint surgery or alternatively try yoga. Merchant opted for yoga and that was the last he heard about surgery.
Combining the traditions of yoga, acrobatics and dance, Tanya Arriaga, Matt Bench, Zack Durr and Gayle Wetz displayed a perfect sense of coordination, strength, steadiness and flexibility in an awe inspiring acroyoga performance that drew several rounds of applause.
The program concluded with a prayer seeking enlightenment and the playful smearing of eco- friendly colors that only Houston offers. The vote of thanks was given by Madhukar Adi. Sewa International volunteers distributed free yoga T-Shirts.
IDY at The Woodlands saw 300 people show up early at the Town Green Park on 22nd June to kick start their morning with a robust session of yoga. Twenty yoga teachers, 50 volunteers and the Hindu Temple Woodlands team ensured that the event was executed smoothly. Yoga sessions are held at The Woodlands temple on a regular basis and the 22nd June event was to encourage everyone to practice and promote yoga.
IDY was also celebrated at Austin, Dallas and San Antonio with a huge turnout everywhere.