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Gaga about Yoga

After Cyclothon, Marathon, it seems Yogathon is the current mantra for new age fitness gurus and experts. To popularise the ‘concept’, on World Health Day, April 7, The Art of Living Foundation (AOL), will be holding a Yogathon throughout the country. Participants will learn how to do Surya Namaskars during the event.

Yogathon
PARTICIPATION: Indian schoolchildren participate in a mass "Surya Namaskar" yoga exercise in Bhopal on January 12, 2012. PIC/AFP PHOTO

At a press conference held at Press Club on April 3, members from AOL announced that the Yogathon will be held at 2222 venues in India. In Mumbai, 69 venues have been identified for the occasion.

“The practice has inherent benefits. Surya Namaskar helps to bring the body and mind into a state of complete harmony. We believe that such a massive event will help to bridge the gap between various religions, caste and creed. Yoga is for everybody,” said Prasanna Prabhu, Trustee, AOL. The event on Saturday will be held in schools, colleges as well as prisons in India.

“Children between Class 3 and Class 9 will be coming on Saturday to take part in the event. Teachers too will accompany them. We expect to have 300 students,” confirms Tarulata Sunil Sonkar, Principal, Chandrabhaga Vidya Mandir, Malad (West).

A participant who can complete 108 Surya Namaskars will be awarded a gold certificate, claimed members of the Foundation. While practice sessions have already begun at various venues in the city, on the day of the event there will be volunteers and AOL trained yoga teachers, who will teach participants how to do Surya Namaskars. “There will be AOL members present at various venues to help people out,” said Prabhu.

Controversy
Recently, the sun salutation exercise invited the ire of many Muslim leaders, who had stated that bowing before the sun was un-Islamic. An attempt made by the Madhya Pradesh government in order to set a world record with thousands of students performing the Yogic ‘Surya Namaskar’ exercise early this year, was criticised by many clerics, who had also issued a fatwa against it.

“This is a voluntary event and there is absolutely no fear amongst members of the Foundation, that this event will rake up a controversy. Doing Surya Namaskar can do nothing but benefit people,” said Prabhu. Micky Mehta fitness guru, who was present during the press conference added, “Surya Namaskar is above religion, politics. We want to spread good health. That is our motive.”

However, Mahmud Dariyabadi, Secretary General, All India Ulema Council, doesn’t believe that Surya Namaskar is above religion. “For a Muslim, reading Koran five times a day is enough. One doesn’t need anything else. Muslims should abstain from participating in such events, which are organized by religious leaders,” emphasized Dariyabadi.

Dr Zeenat Shaukat Ali, professor of Islamic Studies at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai said, “There is a reason why Muslim clerics are opposed to something like this. The Muslims don’t worship nature. Surya Namaskar is one way of paying obeisance to the Sun god. When Muslims think in a particular fashion, Surya Namaskar might be interpreted as worshiping the sun god. That terminology might be a problem for many.”

However, many think that the hard line approach stems from ignorance.

Father Joe Pereira, Founder and Managing Trustee of the Kripa Foundation, who has been learning and teaching Yoga for many decades now, said, “Yoga is more about spirituality. I teach yoga but I can easily integrate teaching of Jesus in it. In fact I had written an article called ‘Christ is my supreme Yogi’ a few years ago.”

Yogathon
HONG KONG STYLE: Yoga followers take part in a 'Yogathon' event in Hong Kong on April 10, 2011. The eight-hour non-stop event aimed to raise money for the Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation (HKBCF) and promote public knowledge of the disease. PIC/AFP

Caution
While numerous health benefits have been associated with Surya Namaskar, caution should be the watchword for those planning to take part in the Yogathon.

“Those suffering from hernia should not bend over backwards. Those who have lower back pain should not bend forward. Surya Namaskar should be done empty stomach and one should not overstretch while doing the exercise. Everyone has a limitation. If you try too hard, you might end up hurting yourself,” said Pramod Bhai Shah, Yoga teacher, who has been trained at the Patanjali Yogpeeth at Haridwar.

Yogacharya Aditya Bibhas added, “Breathing techniques are equally important. You breath out when you bend forward. The inhaling-exhaling technique has to be spot on otherwise it can harm the body. Unlike asanas, Surya Namaskar is a continuous exercise, which involves a lot of stretching. Hence, one should initially do it say 10 times and then increase the number. Surya Namaskar helps you to stay young. Those who cannot do the exercise early in the morning can go for Chandra Namaskar, which is slightly different.”

Hansaji Jayadeva Yogendra, Director of The Yoga Institute in Santracruz (E) rues the fact that, “without knowing correct technique people are teaching Surya Namaskars to others. First of all Surya Namaskar is not part of yoga. Also known as Surya Dhyaan, it is definitely part of the Hindu religion. Surya Namaskar has to be done during sunrise. Doing it in your flat or anywhere else defeats the purpose. Also one has to realise that Surya Namaskar is a combination of a few asanas. Only after you master those asanas, should one go for Surya Namaskar as the exercise is dynamic and demands that the person should perform quite a few asanas within a very short period of time. But someone with hypertension and heart problems should never attempt it. If somebody is obese, he/she should also abstain from Surya Namaskar.”

For more information visit: http://www.yogathon.in/ 

5 MAIN VENUES
IN MUMBAI AND THANE

  • MHADA Ground: Opposite Rang Sharda, Bandra Reclamation, Bandra West: 6am-8am: call 9867241378
  • Inorbit Mall-Parking lot, Link Road, Malad West: 6am-7:30am: 9892982506
  • Central Maidan, Court Naka: Thane West: 6am-7:30 am: 7738368615
  • Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sports Ground, Near Chunabhatti East Station: 6 am-7:30am: 9321599056
  • Acharya Atre Maidan, Pant Nagar, Ghatkopar East: 6am-7:30am, 5pm-6:30pm: 9821811241

For registration

  • Visit http://www.yogathon.in/
  • For inquiries call—9867241378 or 9821656555
  • Practice sessions have begun at various venues. One can go and register at the venues itself
  • One can also register at the venue on the day of the event—April 7

No entry or registration fee
TIMINGS: 6-7:30am/5-6:30 pm (based on the venue) 

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