‘International Day of Yoga’ today: The theme of this year’s Yoga Day celebrations is ‘Yoga for Humanity’.
On this note, I take this opportunity to share an experience.
A few years back, in the first week of March of 2017, I had participated in the International Yoga Festival held in Rishikesh annually, with over 1000 participants from 100 countries. I had arrived from Chennai the day before the festival commenced and checked into the three-bed accommodation provided to all participants.
The first day of the festival, my roommates and I arrived at the Ganga Arati just as the first chants reverberated through the mountainous riverside air. We were enthusiastically about to join in when a salwar clad, well-turned-out chic Indian lady, I distinctly recall her also wearing a number of expensive rings, looked at us, and me specifically – rudely asking us to step away, at this was the teachers enclave.
We looked at her quizzically as there didn’t seem a marked area for teachers, but more so at her hateful face like she was spitting venom at me. I was totally rattled to my soul at such anger hurled by a complete stranger, at such a peaceful setting. My roommates promptly nudged me by my arms to move away from there. But I pulled back and told them – let’s just stay as moving around now during the hymns was disrespectful, but more so to see what this lady would do next.
She didn’t react – bullies intimidate those they think they can, and I had taken a lot of this nonsense lifelong at my varied jobs to be pushed around any more now!
This bullying lady looked at me contemptuously a few times, but I pretended not to notice. When the lit brass lamps were passed around, I deliberately touched her arm lightly and handed her the heavy one, with a mind to not judge but accept her outrage. She looked at me quizzically but accepted the lamp meekly.
The next morning I attended a yoga session, and to my amazement I found the lady’s enlarged photo on a canvas along with all the other yoga teachers on the stage – she seemed to be staring back at me specifically. But I wasn’t intimidated at the least, rather was shocked that this was the true inner self – lacking a basic level of spirituality of such yogic teachers. Then I went on to have some very interesting experiences throughout the festival, along with the hourly learnings every afternoon from renowned world spiritual leaders – I would skip the physical yoga lessons for.
At the end of the festival, we were handed a very detailed feedback form with a number of questions. There was also a space for comments – in which I narrated the entire incident with this yoga teacher at the Ganga Arati – I leaned her name by then and also that she was from Delhi.
I ended my comments by asking the organisers a pertinent question. I hope they at least thought about it – even if they didn’t take action – “If a yoga teacher has such a negative disposition – what’s the use of her physical practice of yoga, leave alone teach it to people?”
My confidence, on the true meaning of yoga comes from growing up with Yoga at a time when it wasn’t a fashion statement worldwide as it has become today. When I was in high school, in 1989 my mother had earned a doctoral degree on the subject of yoga and it’s benefits on mind and body. She worked on the project at my school with batches of students as case studies. I knew well what Yoga truly means!
“To know God you should know yourself first” — a Buddhist saying I found at Nadi viewpoint at McLeodganj, Dharamshala”
Sharing in the link below, a series of incidents I had written about just after this festival I attended. It is not so much about the inspiring people I talk about here in the link below, but the wannabe yogis who do not have flexible and open minds.
Even as we tone and balance our bodies through yoga, why do we not prioritise the mind and our capacity to balance and restrain from judgements to thereby embrace humanity!
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