The colourful and harmony-building yoga asanas and pranayams have been driven underground this year. The International Day of Yoga (IDY) celebrations remain low-key. The practice and the protocols for the tens of thousands of yoga day events held across continents for over half a decade have been muted this summer.
In accordance with this year's theme, Yoga at Home Yoga with Family, many people satisfied themselves with a round of stretching and controlled breathing in the confines of their homes. For others the IDY became an excuse to step out and meet with people. Despite the shadow cast by coronavirus, with its epicentre at Hubei province, China, many people managed to find radiant ways to express themselves and made IDY, a fun-filled fest to be celebrated.
Maggie Gray, a musician and writer based in London, met up with her yoga class that she was regularly involved with before the lockdown. IDY 2020 became an opportunity for the yogis to gather in a London Park and later hold a picnic. Gray is also a yoga teacher, having undergone a yoga course from the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Ashram in Kerala. Immensely grateful for the training, she says: "Yoga has helped immensely in my life journey after the teachers training course. The body has become much fitter and stronger and I feel I’ve got the tools that I need to calm my mind in difficult situations. The pranayama breathing has brought extra vigour and vitality into life."
The practice as a teacher came to her aid during the miserable days of lockdown. Gray says: "During lockdown I have been teaching online to people who have been struggling and the yoga techniques have helped them all." Before the lockdown, she worked with the British Charity ‘Croydon Vision’ where she was delighted to find that pranayama and simple yoga exercises were appreciated and enjoyed by the visually impaired people. She plans to get back to working with the impaired people after the Covid crisis
Even as Gray and her yoga group scooped an opportunity out of the IYD, her yoga compatriot from the Sivananda Ashram, Shobha Sheshadri has been celebrating the day at home. Dubai-based Sheshadri had been occasionally taking yoga classes in the Desert city but since the pandemic, she was forced to celebrate it at home. Sheshadri, who now posts about her incredible yoga journey on Facebook, says: "Words won't suffice as to how yoga and fitness has changed my life. It has opened avenues for me that I didn't know existed.
Yoga has helped me to understand myself inside and out, as well as understand the world around me. I've just begun to understand and learn. Long way to go, and enjoying every bit of the journey." For both Gray and Sheshadri, their practice of yoga, and immense belief in it, has supported them in tough times. They have followed the practice, witnessed the changes and are grateful to yoga.
Eika Chaturvedi Banerjee, Founder Eikam, and CEO, Future Learning, who is a well-known leadership and wisdom coach, agrees with the change that yoga brings to individuals. "Yoga and meditation help you discover who you are. These practices are about going inwards. Once you begin to immerse yourself into some of our traditional knowledge-based practices, you are completely stripped of your externalities of assumptions and expectations. You discover who you are from within. This is what yoga does."
But what makes yoga so potent and life-changing? Banerjee says: "The practice of Yoga is timeless and eternal. These are time-tested and have held true over 5,000 years. They are a way of life. Every time that people across the world grapple with a major crisis – whether it was the post-war crisis in the 1960s, followed by the materialistic crisis in the 1980s – people look for life and identity and existential answers, and it is yoga that provides that purpose and guidance to all those multiple questions." Banerjee is right.
This is the sixth International Yoga Day that the world is celebrating. With the coronavirus making its debilitating impact on people and countries, wreaking mental and physical agony upon people, yoga has come to the rescue. The tribe of yogis grows by millions – loyal, steadfast, confident and knowledgeable.