Dubai: Wearing white shirts, comfortable clothing and with face masks on, around 70 people of various ages and skills took part in the advanced celebration of the Seventh International Day of Yoga (IDY), organised by the Consulate General of India in collaboration with Ismaili Centre in Oud Metha here on Saturday.
IDY is celebrated every year on June 21 across the world, after the United Nations designated it as International Day of Yoga in 2014, following a call by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to have a global celebration of yoga — an ancient practice that originated in India more than 5,000 years ago.
The first IDY was observed on June 21, 2015, and since then “the Government of India has taken the opportunity to celebrate it across the world with great enthusiasm and mass participation to create awareness about yoga and its benefits to lead a healthy life,” according to the Indian Consulate.
‘Yoga is for everyone’
Indian Consul-General Dr Aman Puri led the celebrations in Dubai, which carried the theme: ‘Yoga for Wellness’. Puri said: “Yoga is for everyone, and everyone is for yoga. Yoga is not a religion, nor should it be seen as belonging to any particular religion. It is a science — the science of well-being, the science of integrating the body, mind, and soul, the science of actualising our full potential.
“Yoga’s increasing popularity and acceptance can be seen all around the world. Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) has designated yoga as the intangible cultural heritage of humanity, which underscores its global significance and benefit to humankind,” he added.
Yoga for wellness
Dr Puri likewise enumerated the many benefits of practising yoga. He noted: “Consistent practice of Yoga helps improve health and strengthens natural immunity. Yoga practice aids in the improvement of metabolism, the maintenance of good blood circulation, and the reduction of vulnerability to various conditions such as respiratory disorders, cardiovascular illnesses, and diabetes.
“Yoga also promotes mental health and emotional resilience, enabling people to manage emotions such as fear, anxiety, stress, restlessness, depression, and irritation, which are commonly reported in these difficult times,” he underlined.
Ranganath Subramoney, founder of LAAF Meditation, kicked off the yoga session with Laughter Yoga. Gentle warm-up techniques and basic stretching were combined with voluntary dose of laughter exercises and yoga breathing techniques to boost positivity and energy among the participants.
Explaining the concept behind Laughter Yoga, Subramoney told Gulf News: “Intentional laughter often turns into real and contagious laughter. This type of yoga will lift your mood, lessen stress and strengthen your immune system. Yoga improves your circulation, strengthens your core muscles, aligns your breathing and this keeps you physiologically and psychologically balanced. This builds resilience in body and mind,” he further explained.
Subramoney noted: “Just 30 minutes of daily practice of laughter, stretching and breathing — combined with simple meditation techniques — are a great way to maintain your physical, mental, emotional and social wellness. It removes toxins from your body, cleanses your mind and leaves you energised and with a positive mindset. This is the best preventive medicine to avoid falling sick,” he continued.
Yoga of the mind
Yogi Sreedharan Sama, meanwhile, talked about Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of the Mind. He said: “Yoga is designed for both physical and mental fitness. It has helped my body become strong, my mind to be calm and intellect to be sharp. Yoga has brought a lot of peace and happiness in my life.”
Sama, however, noted that yoga does not work instantly and it will take time to see the positive results. Regular practice is required, added the 50-year old yogi, who is originally from Chennai. He said: “I have been practicing yoga for 20 years now. I do three times weekly of one-hour physical yoga exercises and six times a week of mental yoga. I do yoga mostly indoors in the morning.”
Because yoga is all about integrating one’s mind and body, Sama recommended the following exercises to boost mental strength and immunity: Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) — a sequence of breathing exercise from a standing position with downward and upward movements; Pranayama — which is done to calm the nervous system and aid in a restful night’s sleep; and Kapalbhati — another breathing exercise that will revitalise the immune system. Sama noted: “By increasing oxygen intake, we can purify the blood, calm the mind, reduce stress, promote concentration and improve our body’s immunity.”
Regular yoga practice
Another practitioner of yoga, Chandnee Kaurani, stressed that yoga can definitely boost one’s immunity. She pointed out: “Yoga helps lower our stress hormones and calms the nervous system (known to compromise our immune system). Through relaxation, the nervous system can tell the immune system to settle down and stop attacking the foreign bodies. This is how regular yoga practice can help one strengthen their immunity.”
Kaurani said one should practice yoga consistently to enjoy its benefits. A minimum of 30 minutes of yoga practice is proven effective for overall health and well-being. “Practicing asanas (yoga postures), breathing techniques and meditation can definitely help one prevent common sicknesses and ailments. But yoga is a journey which has no short cuts or quick fixes. It’s a discipline that leads to a significantly healthier lifestyle and general well-being both mentally and physically,” she underlined.
Yoga at Expo 2020
Meanwhile, Dr Puri said yoga will be highlighted at the India Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai, which will run from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.
“Expo 2020 Dubai will be an opportunity for people to experience the best that the world has to offer. At the India Pavilion at Expo 2020, dynamism of the strong India-UAE relationship will be reflected and among other things, Yoga will feature prominently. ‘Wellness Mornings’ with experienced Yoga practitioners, will be conducted every alternate week and I would like to invite (everyone) to join us for these sessions at the India Pavilion at Expo 2020,” he said.
Support from the community
Many organisations are supporting IDY, including the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin (GOPio).
Kamal Vachani, chairman of GOPio in Dubai and Northern Emirates, said: “We are delighted and honoured to be part of International Yoga Day organised by the Consulate General of India. Yoga is truly a part of humanity’s intangible cultural heritage and we are happy to take forward this wonderful practice across the world.”