Healthy mind in a healthy body

25 June 2015 02:50 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Hundreds of millions of people in India, Sri Lanka and other countries participated in exercises and various events to mark the first International Yoga Day on Sunday June 21 which significantly happened to be the longest day of the year. 

On June 5 we marked World Environment Day with the theme this year focusing on food cultivation, production and processing. The United Nations Environment Programme pointed out that among other factors, the diet  and lifestyles of families could have positive or negative effects on the environment. Pope Francis in his historic encyclical last week also warned that vices such as selfishness, greed and carefree recklessness were major contributory factors to the looming catastrophe of polluting Mother Earth, the air and the sea. These are freely given to us and that may be one of the reasons why we are freely abusing them with self-destructive consequences for all.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi led thousands in a mass yoga programme in New Delhi. Mr. Modi did stretches, bends and breathing exercises with 35,000 schoolchildren, officials and soldiers. Millions of others did yoga at similar events in more than 650  Indian cities and towns. Mr. Modi, a yoga enthusiast who says he practises the ancient 6000-year-old Indian art daily and has spoken of how it helps him to do all his work without much sleep,  lobbied the United Nations to declare June 21 as International Yoga Day.
Thousands of colourful mats were laid out on Rajpath - King’s Avenue - where the main event was held. Officials had earlier said the Prime Minister would attend the event and address the gathering, but not do yoga. But Mr. Modi surprised participants by joining in with the exercises. Authorities said 35,000 people attended the 35-minute yoga session on Rajpath, aimed at setting a new Guinness World Record for the largest yoga class at a single venue. 
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was in New York where she attended the celebrations with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But the day, being billed as one to promote  harmony and peace, had hit a controversial note with some Muslim organisations saying yoga is essentially a Hindu religious practice and is against Islam. Many others say Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist government has an agenda in promoting the ancient Indian discipline. However, the authorities deny the charge - they say participation in the yoga day is not mandatory and reports that Muslims are opposed to yoga are exaggerated.
According to Medi-India the true essence of yoga revolves around elevating the life force or ‘Kundalini’ at the base of the spine. It aims to achieve this through a series of physical and mental exercises. At the physical level, the methods comprise various yoga postures or ‘asanas’ that aim to keep the body healthy. The mental techniques include breathing exercises or ‘pranayama’ and meditation or ‘dhyana’ to discipline the mind. The ultimate goal of yoga is, however, to help the individual to transcend the self and attain enlightenment. 
 Yoga is not a religion. It is a way of living whose aim is ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’. People are physical, mental and spiritual beings. Yoga helps promote a balanced development of all three. Other forms of physical exercises, like aerobics, assure only physical well-being. They have little to do with the development of the spiritual or astral body.   Yogic exercises recharge the body with cosmic energy. This facilitates attainment of perfect equilibrium and harmony, promotes self-healing, removes negative blocks from the mind and toxins from the body and enhances personal power. It also increases self-awareness, helps in attention focus and concentration, especially important for children and reduces stress and tension in the physical body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system.
In Sri Lanka about 2000 yoga enthusiasts participated in an International Yoga Day event at the Galle Face Green. For the new era in Sri Lanka we need people with healthy minds and healthy bodies. Those interested could contact a qualified yoga teacher or the Indian Cultural Centre in Colombo.   
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