This Sunday, June 21st I joined over 2,600 people at New York’s Lincoln Center to celebrate the first International Day of Yoga.
Hosted by the Art of Living Foundation, Global Citizen Forum and Consulate General of India NY, the evening will honor the rich heritage of yoga through dance, music & meditation.
The evening explored the deeper mysteries of this ancient path, with world-renowned spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a world-renowned humanitarian leader and a spiritual teacher, who has united millions by re-kindling the timeless traditions of yoga and meditation in the context of the 21st century.
Fun Fact: Around 20.4 million Americans practice yoga and spend $10.3 billion on it annually, suggesting it is one of India’s most-successful cultural exports.
Sri Sri recreated and talked about Yoga you can do in the office “This is called desktop yoga,” he said to laughs from the gathering. “You can practice it in your office—just make sure to warn your co-workers first.”
“In the early days, people would come secretly to practice yoga, worried about what others would think of them,” said Mr. Shankar. “But fortunately today that prejudice is gone, the paradigms have changed. And with the United Nations declaring International Yoga Day, it is encouraging those who are a bit apprehensive to come forward,” he added.
It “suits today’s busy, busy world because we don’t have time to do much practice but we want the best results,” Mr. Shankar explained. “It resets the rhythm within us so it enables us to have some of the deepest meditative experiences.”
One of the majori hightlights for me was the the dance performance. “The eight limbs of yoga have to be kept intact,” he said, referring to the steps that make up the discipline as conceived in Hindu texts compiled by Patanjali, who is often considered the father of yoga, circa 400 B.C. Body posture and breathing are just two of the limbs required for yoga practice, according to Patanjali. The others include control of the senses and devotion and meditation on the divine. This was depicted by a beautiful dance, The Rhythm Within, performed by over 100 dancers.
About Sri Sri and the Art of Living Foundation
Mr. Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, a Bangalore-headquartered nonprofit tackling stress through a series of what it calls Happiness Programs. The 59-year-old’s foundation has centers in 152 countries teaching a blend of breathing techniques, meditation, everyday wisdom, and of course, yoga. The Art of Living Foundation is synonymous with sudarshan kriya, a rhythmic breathing exercise that Mr. Shankar says was revealed to him after a 10-day period of silence on the banks of the Bhadra river in Karnataka over three decades ago.