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International Yoga Day: Confessions of a former sceptic
We have to hand it to the persuasive powers of Narendra Modi, that the UN announced 21st June (Summer Solstice) as the International Yoga Day.

From the yoga line up at the United Nations, New York to the remote iconic Machu Picchu in Peru, an ocean of humanity was locked in unison with their yoga asanas.

Just one page of Thursday's newspaper carried photos of the PM at Lucknow, soldiers in Siachen, to the common folk in Myanmar, China, Stonehenge (UK), Times Square (New York), sadhus in Guwahati and Nepal's prime minister in Kathmandu, doing their yoga session.

Briefly, my observations of yoga practice in a life time are these:

As a school boy in the days of the Raj, I saw only a scattering of sadhus and babas teaching their disciples. There were no tutors or institutes teaching yoga.

As a science student, I had always laughed at people twisting and turning in all sorts of manner. In a Films Division's documentary, when I saw my hero, our first prime minister Pandit Nehru, standing on his head, I could not believe it! I used to tell my friends: Nehru ji talks of getting our country out of the 'bullock cart age', but he himself does such funny things!

The West, apart from some scholars, regarded yoga as just another of those unfathomable practices of the Mystic East. Gradually, institutes like Bihar School of Yoga, or Yoga Institute, Santa Cruz; and Kavalyadham, at Bombay opened up. These drew serious students from both India and abroad. The latter also started a research centre in Lonavala, near Bombay. They started clinically studying the effects of various asanas on the body and mind.

While Swami Vivekanand spread the good word from Chicago and elsewhere, it was left to GKS Iyengar of Poona, to lay the foundations of acceptability in the West. His illustrated books explained each asana and the various modes of pranayama and dhyana. His book 'Light on Yoga' continued to be a best seller worldwide.

British violin virtuoso, Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) under severe depression was losing out on his musical career. GKS Iyengar took him under his wings and cured him. Deeply indebted, Menuhin left no stone unturned to popularise yoga in the West. This was a milestone in the popularisation of yoga abroad.

On reading his book in Hyderabad, I sought out a former research student of the Lonavala institute. Both my wife and I learnt for three months from him. I started experiencing, firsthand the benefits of different aspects of asanas and pranayam. We sent both our children for a residential program at Yoga Institute, Santa Cruz.

With the advent of TV, our DD ran regular programmes conducted by Guru Yoganand, founder of Yoga institute, Santa Cruz. His wife conducted similar programs for women.

Suddenly, from nowhere Baba Ramdev burst on the scene, and took the country by storm. His hugely attended lectures/demonstrations attracted the largest number of converts to yoga, particularly pranayama. Till today he rocks, in more ways than one. Even the Queen of England, sought a meeting with him.

It was left to PM Narendra Modi to assign official recognition to yoga. And make its acceptance worldwide which the International Yoga Day signifies.

This certainly, gives a boost to India's soft power. But let us not get besotted by our soft power, as a substitute of being a world power! In real acceptance on the stage of hard headed international real politics, what matters is our economic and military clout. Let's nurture these with even greater care and gusto!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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