International Conference on Yoga 2015, Delhi, India
I celebrated the summer solstice in a way I never imagined this year. I was a delegate representing Yoga Therapy Ireland and Ireland at the International Yoga Conference as part of International Yoga Day 2015. It was the first year for International Yoga Day recognised by the UN General Assembly back in December 2014 having been petitioned by Prime Minister Modi of India. A little piece of history was made on June 21st and I was extremely honoured and humbled to be part of it.
With 27 global delegates as guests of the Indian Government and the many speakers the plush Ashok Hotel in Delhi was a hive of activity when I arrived on the Saturday, somewhat bemused after a long, broken flight. Nothing that ‘legs up the wall’ and a few hours’ sleep didn’t sort out.
On the morning of June 21st, 35,000 people gathered in Rajpath Square and partook in a yoga class; they succeeded in breaking 2 world records too. For security reasons we were not permitted to go but I later learned of 2 delegates who ‘escaped’ and attended. They reported back that the atmosphere was electric; they felt they were part of something very special that day. The largest yoga class in the world had just finished when the skies opened and the rain began to fall heavily. The significance of this was not lost on us! To see all the coverage on the news and Indian TV was very exciting. Reports of yoga classes around the world started to come through as the morning passed. There was a buzz amongst us as we made our way to the coach to take us to the convention centre, the rain was heavy and it didn’t take long for confusion as to which entrance to take, where to go etc. to take over. But this is India and somehow in all the chaos things have a happy knack of working themselves out. We eventually made it albeit a little wet but for an Irish person this was no problem as I was assured by my new friends!
Security was tight as PM Modi was on his way to open the conference; no bags, cameras, phones etc. I was delighted to find my seat next to Gt from Jamaica and I settled in for a good people watching session before the conference started.
PM Modi was a very animated and articulate speaker, typical of Politian stock one might say. However it was very refreshing to hear a man in such a positon talk of yoga for inner development and the effects of that to all those around us. He spoke of inner and world peace and how yoga can help bring about both. It was a very moving speech and I feel he was genuine in everything he said. He spoke of yoga being part of the many traditions, beliefs and religion – just called a different name. I think India has come into its own with this day of celebration and awareness and credit must be given to PM Modi for highlighting and bringing this to the fore nationally and internationally.
The day followed with some great speakers broken by a yummy vegetarian buffet lunch. I listened to many aspects of yoga presented, everything from the scientific to the spiritual. The first session covered the Traditional Basis of Yoga – an ancient system having history of more than five thousand years. There are several Yoga traditions developed over these years. The objective of the session was to provide an insight into the traditional basis of Yoga and its relevance in the present day context. This was followed by a session on Yoga for Prevention of Disease and Promotion of Health – The preventive and health promoting effects of Yoga have been documented in the ancient Indian classics. The holistic approach of Yoga in health promotion is being researched world over. The objective of the session was to deliberate on the potential of Yoga in prevention of diseases and health promotion. The last session was the Therapeutic Potentials of Yoga with Evidence Based Research – the prophylactic as well as therapeutic potential of Yoga has been scientifically documented in several research studies conducted across the globe. The objective of the session was to mull upon certain landmark researches in Yoga that have generated scientific evidence for therapeutic potential of this ancient wisdom.
That evening back at the hotel we were in for a treat with a Cultural Evening of Dance from the different styles of India. The event was hosted by the Minister of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) Shri Shripad Yesso Naik.
The next day there were 3 sessions followed by a panel discussion. Yoga for Global Peace – Indian philosophy has always promoted the concept of ‘Vasudhev Kutumbakam’ i.e. ‘the whole world is a family’. Yoga is poised to play a pivotal role in promoting peace, harmony and spiritual enlightenment across the Universe. Yoga has always been a part of Indian healthy lifestyle. The objective of the session was to discuss the practical modalities and potential of Yoga in promotion of universal brotherhood and global peace.
Before lunch we had a choice of session. I chose to sit in on Yoga and its Applications – Yoga has always been a part of traditional Indian lifestyle. Owing to its virtuous principles, Yoga has tremendous potential to contribute in rural upliftment. By virtue of its ability to improve concentration and stabilization of the mind and body, Yoga is already included in the curriculum of a large number of educational institutions. The Government Organizations, the Uniform Services, and even the Corporate world have realized the potential of Yoga in minimizing the levels of anxiety and stress at work place. The objective of the session was to ponder over the ways in which Yoga can contribute to a healthy society.
The other session was Living Traditions of Yoga and their Contribution in the Promotion and Development of Yoga – Several distinguished living traditions of Yoga have not only kept this ancient practice alive but also have immensely contributed in appropriate customization of Yogic practices to suit the present day lifestyle. The objective of the session was to throw light on such living traditions which have played a crucial role in promotion, propagation as well as advancement of Yoga.
The day ended with a panel discussion with representatives and experts from India and from among the delegates. What a pleasure and honour it was to be in the company of so many great and interesting people.
The speakers who stood out for me were
Dr. Mukund V. Bhole – Working with awareness of breath and breathing in Yoga.
Ms. Hansaji Jayadeva – Contribution of Yoga for World Peace.
Swami Nisarga – Yoga Based Holistic Health Modules in Rural Areas.
Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani – Gurukula: The Ideal Structure for Spiritual Instruction.
If anyone would like more information on the other speakers I would be happy to email a list to you (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The following day I said goodbye to my new friends and made my way to my guesthouse to spend a few more enjoyable sightseeing filled days in hot Delhi.
I would like to thank Yoga Therapy Ireland and The Indian Embassy in Dublin for the great opportunity to have had this wonderful, enriching experience.