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International Yoga Day was held at the Viharamahadevi Park on June 21 (Tuesday) | (Pic by Ravi Nagahawatte)

Sri Lanka joins in celebrating ancient exercise form on june 21

Clad in soft t-shirts and stretchable white pants, kids, teenagers and adults sat in silence as Sri Lanka got ready to celebrate International Yoga Day at Viharamahadevi Park on June 21 (Tuesday).

It was early as 6 am and the open air theatre at the park was filled with the anticipation of a great yoga workout, rather than a full audience. People were still streaming in, but the real hardcore yoga practitioners were already seated in a lotus posture. This writer uses the word hardcore because their supple bodies suggested these limbs can be twisted anyway without distorting body alignment.

One of the comperes, speaking on behalf of the organizer of the event, The Indian High Commission in Colombo, greeted the participants warmly. But the real welcome came from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose message was aired via a multimedia projector to the audience. “We seek the completeness of the body through yoga,” Prime Minister Modi said in a short message.

The participants were taken through some of the basic yoga postures. Several yoga gurus took charge of the hour-and-a-half long session where two of the prime instructions given to participants were to stretch the body within one’s limits and to smile.

Yoga is now more than an individual’s pastime and enjoys international recognition with the United Nations General Assembly acknowledging the need for such a day, two years ago. The United Nations General Assembly has underscored the role of yoga in contributing towards keeping a society healthy.

Chief Yoga Instructor Indian Cultural Centre, Vyash Kalyanasundaram, told Nation that yoga energizers the body and people should adopt its practice in their day-to-day life. “The practice of yoga in Sri Lanka dates back to the time of King Ravana and has continued since. There have been certain modifications to yoga, but Sri Lanka has maintained the purity of this exercise form,” he said.

As many as 10 yoga schools were invited to participate at the International Yoga Day. Every participant didn’t look the perfect example of a yoga practitioner. This writer forms this opinion because there were a few participants who had sturdy bodies and muscle tone which was significant. Chamin Warnakula of Sethsanda Yoga Institute said that yoga is a standalone exercise form and should not be combined with vigorous sports like karate and kick-boxing if the desired results are to be obtained.

Warnakula said that yoga is a popular mode of cure used when working with patients suffering from psychosomatic disorders. He said that yoga can be used to free people from the use of drugs and alcohol. Digging into his large sea of knowledge on yoga and life, the former policeman underscored the fact that yoga helped combine mind, body and spirit.

Yoga attracts practitioners from all religions. A fact that must be underscored is that gurus who teach this exercise form don’t expect their students to change their religions,   even though many do recommend lifestyle changes. Azeeza Chamba of Dhama Yoga Academy, a Muslim, said that yoga has helped her immensely to pursue her religion which expects devotees to meditate and sit in prayer for long hours. “I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and when aerobics didn’t bring me the desired cure, yoga did,” said Azeeza who has now taken to yoga teaching.

Two standout features of the comperes were that they all were friendly personalities and had the ability to capture the audience with their silvery voices. As the yoga session reached its end, participants went into a session of meditation with closed eyes. One of the comperes who saw the event to its end said, “Yoga generates powerful thoughts. My third eye is open. I now see the whole world through the eyes of wisdom. I am now in the company of the All Mighty. I can experience a comfortable atmosphere. I am at peace. I am blissful. Om shanthi, shanthi.”

When the session wound up, participants mingled with each other and exchanged pleasantries. They pulled out their mobile phones and took selfies. International Yoga Day in Sri Lanka was a success, not because there was a decent audience despite it being held on the morning of a working day. It was a success because people from all walks of life had come together under one umbrella to promote this ancient exercise form.

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