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When Melbourne got yoga-fied: International Yoga Day 2016
YOGA AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE
The second annual United Nations International Yoga Day was celebrated with great gusto at the Victorian Parliament, with a 30-minute yoga session at the Queens Hall. In a historic milestone, it was the very first time the Day was celebrated at a Parliament anywhere in the world!
Over 60 yoga enthusiasts from various cultural backgrounds participated in the event, jointly organised by India Australia Exchange Forum (IAEF) and the Hindu Council of Australia.
Several other prominent organisations also lent their support to this momentous event including the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, ISKCON Temple Melbourne, Art of Living, Shirdi Sai Sansthan Melbourne, Shree Swaminarayan Temple Melbourne, Shree Durga Temple in Rockbank and the Jet Foundation.
Under the guidance of renowned yoga teacher Rajendra Yenkannamoole, participants started the day with Surya Namaskar followed by Prananyam and various yoga asanas.
First proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the UN General Assembly in 2014, Yoga Day has gained popularity around the world with thousands of people turning out to participate the event performing asanas at prominent locations around the world.
A spokesperson from IAEF said, “This was a wonderful opportunity for the Indian community to showcase its culture and heritage in the temple of democracy in Melbourne. We would like to thank John Pesutto [MP Hawthorn], former Premier Ted Baillieu and all our Yoga Day Ambassadors for their incredible support in enabling this event to take place at Parliament House.”
One of the yoga enthusiasts said, “I have been practising yoga for a few months and it has not only helped in improving my physical self, but also boosted my confidence and mental health. It is wonderful to see so many people choosing yoga as a part of their lifestyle.”
The ancient practise of yoga enables people to unite the body, mind and spirit for a peaceful and harmonious co-existence.
Owing to the overwhelmingly positive feedback received from the politicians and participants, IAEF and HCA are planning to make this into an annual celebration at the Parliament.
VASUDEVA KRIYA YOGA
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi released 12 commemorative stamps featuring the positions of Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) prior to kicking off a worldwide celebration of yoga for the second International Yoga Day. The Surya Namaskar is a well-known yoga technique that comprises 12 asanas that pay tribute to the sun with an aim to energise both body and mind.
In Melbourne, young and old alike enthusiastically performed 108 Surya Namaskar led by Rajendra Yenkannamoole from Vasudeva Kriya Yoga. The free event was held at the Springer’s’ Leisure Centre in Keysborough. From early morning to mid-afternoon, the Centre attracted hundreds of participants as they braved the inclement weather to perform yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
According to Rajendra Yenkannamoole, founder of Vasudeva Kriya Yoga, the yoga conference this year was organised to focus on the physical, mental, social and spiritual benefits of yoga. Rajendra started teaching yoga in Melbourne in 2004. He regularly conducts classes and seminars in India, including rehabilitation program classes for inmates in Bangalore Prison. According to Rajendra, the proceeds from his classes go towards various humanitarian projects.
Under this guidance, there was plenty on offer at the IDY 2016 to enrich wellbeing. This took the form of Bhagawat Gita chanting, invocation music, Tratak, meditation, pranayama and asana. Guest speakers were invited to address the audience with a range of yoga related topics. Local politicians and dignitaries were present to support the event including Indian-born Karthik Arasu an independent candidate for the Australian Senate.
Neurologist Dr Sanjay Raghav spoke about yoga and wellness, while gastrointestinal surgeon Dr Arun Dhir discussed gut health and mindfulness. Larissa Gita Azar from Yoga in Daily Life shed light on yoga and social health, and Brahmakumaris Coordinator Sister Christine Westbury explored themes of consciousness and self-realisation through Raja Yoga.
The kids’ yoga was popular as the children executed difficult yogic postures with ease and flexibility. Participants enjoyed browsing through the array of small exhibitor stalls lined up to promote health and wellbeing through not for profit goods, ethical products, spiritual books and more. Vegetarian meals were also available for post exercise appetites.
According to Srividya M, “I went in there thinking there is no way that I could complete the 108 Surya Namaskar, however it was amazing how motivated I felt to complete all the rounds. I felt so energised and I wish to thank Vasudeva Kriya for organising this wonderful event. I am sure to visit next year.”
ART OF LIVING YOGA
The Art of Living Foundation in Melbourne marked the second International Day of Yoga, by holding a three-hour ‘Yoga for Happiness’ event at Clayton Hall in Clayton North.
Uniting the mind, body and spirit in a joyful experience, a combination of gentle and vigorous asanas formed the routine. More than 120 enthusiastic participants were led though the postures by yoga teacher Chris Dale who is also a senior member of the Art of Living Foundation.
Yogic breathing techniques were demonstrated by yoga teacher Rohit Singla followed by a meditation session. Participants also had the opportunity to learn more through a Q&A session conducted by Yoga Australia Teacher Coordinator Angela Hass.
Head of Chancery, Indian Consulate Melbourne Rakesh Malhotra and Vice President of SEWA International, Australia Vikrant Thakur were among those present.
The event ended with soothing Sanskrit tunes lead by teachers Slava and Sveta Sapunar on vocals and guitar, with Board Member Jay Jayashankar and Melbourne State Coordinator Avinash Rain on percussion.
The Art of Living Foundation operates as a volunteer based, humanitarian, educational and NGO organisation that has regional centres in more than 150 countries around the world. Founded by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981, the Foundation is engaged in many social and community services globally.
AOLF works in special consultative status with the UN’s Economic and Social Council participating in a variety of committees and activities relating to health, education, sustainable development, conflict resolution, and disaster relief.
Art of Living volunteers and teachers actively conduct stress-relief courses, based on yoga and meditation including Sudarshan kriya a unique breathing technique that aims to bring social, mental and physical wellbeing.
YOGA AT THE CONSULATE
In perhaps one of the earliest Yoga Day events in Australia, the Consulate General of India Melbourne brought out its yoga mats on 18 June.
Some 150 people participated in the stretch-and-bend, inhale-and exhale routines at the event, held in association with the City of Yarra Council and organisations such as Yoga Australia, United Nations Association of Australia, and Heart of Joy.
Consul General Manika Jain participated herself, like a good yogi, following the instructions of the leaders. The Common Yoga Protocol produced by the Government of India’s Ministry of AYUSH was followed closely, as volunteers assisted yogis.
A suitable ambience had been created with a yoga documentary playing in the background, photos from last year’s event the world over, and displays of India’s holistic health culture.
Many invited speakers, such as endurance athlete and social entrepreneur Samantha Gash, spoke of their association with yoga, their experience of its benefits, and, going forward, their plans for propagation.
“It was wonderful to hear Adam Bandt (Greens MP) talk of his plans to take yoga into parliament,” Prabhat Sangwan, of the Consulate, told Indian Link.
Manika Jain, a long time practitioner is happy to see this initiative reach all corners of the globe.
“It’s not a new fad,” she told Indian Link. “Outside of India, yoga has been around for decades, but this initiative, driven by our PM Narendra Modi, has provided a platform like never before. Having the UN declare a Yoga Day has given the movement a new energy and enthusiasm so that people in large numbers, even sceptics, came out to give it a try. What has surprised me, personally, is the number of people who have embraced it in certain parts of the world, such as the Middle East.”
She added, “The message has gone out effectively that yoga is not a religious or quasi-religious practice, but a source of internal and external peace, and harmony with nature.”