Lisbon link in yoga show

Portugal guru first mooted idea

By Radhika Ramaseshan
  • Published 11.06.15

New Delhi, June 10: A Portuguese yoga expert planted the seed for the concept of an International Yoga Day, conveying the idea to a Bangalore yogi who convinced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take the plea to the UN, according to a BJP source.

The conceptualiser is Swami Amrta Suryanand Maharaj, who lives in Lisbon and heads the Yoga Portuguese Confederation. The Swami, a frequent speaker at seminars on yoga and pranayam (breathing exercises) in India, also thought of June 21 as the most appropriate date because it happens to be the calendar's longest day and, therefore, blessed in most parts of the world with enough sunlight to perform an extended session of surya namaskar.

But to his dismay perhaps, the Centre has taken off the sun-salutation sequence from the long play of yogic asanas on June 21 following protests from sections of minorities who view it as a practice associated with Hindus.

Swami Suryanand mooted the yoga-day idea in 2004 to H.R. Nagendra, Modi's yoga guru, and stressed that it should be flagged as a public demand.

The BJP source said "perhaps" Nagendra sounded out the Prime Minister, who was enthralled enough with the proposal to pursue it to its fructification with the UN.

Incidentally, June 21 signifies something else for the BJP and the RSS - Sangh founder K.B. Hedgewar passed away that day.

Modi's association with the Bangalore-based Nagendra goes back to the eighties when he first went to his institute, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana or S-Vyasa, to learn asanas.

Apart from the fact that Modi and his teacher are both Swami Vivekananda votaries, there was another binding thread. Nagendra's uncle H.V. Seshadri was a Sangh pracharak (whole-timer) who went on to become its general secretary. He introduced Modi to Nagendra.

Nagendra is a mechanical engineer with a doctorate from Bangalore's Indian Institute of Science. He had a stint as a scientist with Nasa and briefly worked as a Harvard University consultant.

Nagendra pulls enough clout with the Prime Minister to push the idea of an International Yoga Day, helm the nodal organising committee for the event in India and pencil the schedule. Swami Suryanand will be part of the commemoration at Lisbon.

In Delhi on June 21, the 35-minute show will begin with the recitation of a benediction from the Upanishads, followed by breathing exercises and 15 minutes of a single asana with a repeat of pranayam. It will wind down with five minutes of meditation, repeating a pledge and an exhortation again from the Upanishads that translated in English reads: "May all be healthy, may all see what is auspicious, may no one suffer in any way."

Nagendra will preside over the programme. He also taught yoga to Anandiben Patel, handpicked by Modi as Gujarat chief minister.