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Hundreds gather in Johns Creek for International Day of Yoga celebration

BY JYOTHSNA HEGDE

Photos by Vinod Sharma, SFA Productions

Atlanta, GA, July 5, 2024: Engulfed by a lush green landscape, the luxurious space of the Amphitheatre in Newtown Park, Johns Creek came alive with colorful mats embellishing the area as yoga participants from diverse backgrounds united to explore yoga’s transformative power.

Atlanta’s scorching heat notwithstanding, well over four hundred yoga enthusiasts gathered at the Amphitheatre to embrace the timeless practice of yoga for the 10th International Day of Yoga (IDY) 2024, on June 22, 2024. Hosted by the Consulate General of India, Atlanta, in association with various spiritual and wellness organizations and the vibrant Indian community, the theme ‘Yoga for Self and Society’ underscored a shared pursuit of well-being and harmony.

“Yoga helps us realize that our welfare is related to the welfare of the world around us. When we are peaceful within, we can also make a positive impact on the world,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led the celebrations of the 10th International Day of Yoga event in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, said in his address. The initiative for IDY was spearheaded by PM Modi.

On December 11, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. Since then, millions of people around the globe, united by the practice of yoga, have celebrated this day each year. This global celebration fosters unity and harmony, transcending borders and cultures.

Hon. Ramesh Babu Lakshmanan, Consul General of India, Atlanta, highlighted the theme of IDY 2024 #YogaForSelfAndSociety and underscored the significance of sustained practice of yoga for physical and mental health. “Let us start with self to embrace the holistic benefits of yoga and take it to our society as well,” he remarked.

The celebration was honored by Georgia State Reps, the Fulton County School Board, and the Johns Creek Police Chief, with Carter Barrett, GA State Representative (District 24), Kristin Mabry McCabe, Fulton County School Board (District 5), Mark Mitchell, Johns Creek Police Chief, Dr. Michelle Au, State Rep (Dist. 50), and Narender Reddy, Candidate for GA State Representative (District 50), gracing the occasion. Their presence highlighted the significance of yoga as a universal practice that promotes the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of both self and society.

“Extremely happy to be part of the organizing team for the last 10 years, but the credit goes to the volunteers and performers who have been working tirelessly towards the grand success of the event. It is wonderful to see that new groups of performers and volunteers are showing interest and participating in the program every year. A big thank you to Patel Brothers for providing delicious snacks to all attendees,” Rajeev Menon, organizer, said.

Kicking off with a traditional lamp ceremony and prayer by HSS and Art of Living kids, emcee Annanya Lohar walked the audience through various steps of performing yoga and various asanas the right way. Various yoga centers across Atlanta, including Shree Jagannath Happy Yogis, Yoga Satsang, Vedic Sanskriti School, HTA/Chinmaya Mission, Art of Living (AOL), and Patanjali Yoga Peeth performed and guided participants with common yoga protocols. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and AOL demonstrated Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation), Heartfulness – Meditation and Brighter Minds, Isha Foundation – Nadi Shuddhi, and Yoga in Daily Life – Laughing Yoga, took to the stage to demonstrate different asanas while highlighting their benefits to the mind and body.

“Yoga really helps maintain and improve overall well-being if practiced regularly. I have witnessed the consistent collaboration between the CGI and several organizations in Atlanta for organizing the IDY in Atlanta,” Dr. Ajay Houde, organizer, expressed.

One of Atlanta’s oldest yoga practitioners, Dr. Sudhanva Char, brilliantly demonstrated Shirshasana, where the yogi stands inverted on the top of their head. Due to its many benefits, it is one of the main poses in Hatha Yoga and is also referred to as “The King of Asanas.” Its physiological impacts are said to be felt throughout the whole body. Other participants were asked to only watch and not try it themselves.

“The event has been supported by more than 40 organizations who came together to celebrate this great event. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the Indian Consulate in Atlanta, all the participating and supporting organizations, and sponsors for making this event a success,” Sudhir Agarwal, organizer, said.

“Yoga Day” was initiated by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his 2014 UN address, and the related resolution received broad global support, with 177 nations co-sponsoring it in the United Nations General Assembly, where it passed unanimously. Subsequently, the first International Yoga Day was celebrated successfully on June 21, 2015, across the world, including in New York, Paris, Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, and New Delhi.

The first Yoga Day celebrations held in 2015 at Raj Path in New Delhi created two Guinness World Records — for being the world’s largest yoga session (35,985 people) and for having the largest number of participating nationalities (84).

Per Statista, 33.64 million people in the United States practice yoga (2023). Yoga is an ancient physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India. At its broadest, yoga, from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means to unite. Most Hindu texts discuss yoga as a practice to control the senses and ultimately, the mind. The philosophical roots of yoga lie in the Six Doctrines of Salvation in Hinduism, or darshana, viz. Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. References to yoga are found throughout Hindu scripture, in The Katha Upanishad (800–600 BCE), Svetasvatara Upanishad (600–500 BCE), and the slightly more recent Dhyanabindu Upanishad, which explains yoga as having six limbs – asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi – and goes on to provide postural details. The most commonly referenced text on yoga is Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, dating between 200 BCE and 200 CE.

Today, yoga is largely misunderstood to be and is practiced primarily as asana, which means posture. Yogasana is not completely yoga in itself; it is simply one part of yoga. Out of the innumerable asanas a body can assume, 84 have been identified as yogasanas, often referred to as the “Ashtanga Yoga Asanas,” that have been meticulously crafted to balance physical strength, mental clarity, and spiritual growth. Yogasanas are not exercises but rather very subtle processes to manipulate one’s energy in a particular direction. Hatha Yoga is offered as a set of 36 powerful postures, or yogasanas, to enable the system to sustain higher dimensions of energy. The practice of yoga asanas develops strength and flexibility while soothing your nerves and calming your mind. The asanas affect the muscles, joints, and skin, and the whole body – glands, nerves, internal organs, bones, respiration, and the brain. The physical building blocks of yoga are posture and the breath. Some of the health benefits of yoga include normalizing blood pressure, digestion, preventing osteoporosis, reducing back pain, improving blood circulation, and reducing stress, anxiety, and fatigue, among many others.

Yoga is a discipline or practice consisting of 8 stages to attain higher consciousness, and Asana (also referred to as yogasana) is one of the stages in yoga. The eight stages include Yama – forsaking bad deeds; Niyama – performing good deeds regularly; Yoga Asana – keeping the body healthy; Pranayama – controlling the breath; Pratyahara – removing one’s faults; Dharana – bringing the chitta to focus (until this point the feeling of doer is present in a subtle form); Dhyana – attaining the state of meditation if it happens; and Samadhi – attaining oneness with Paramatma.

The main objective of yoga has always been to reduce the body consciousness inside a person and increase the soul consciousness. In the words of its famous practitioner, B.K.S. Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

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