To the mystics, it’s midsummer night. To the kids, it’s the start of summer hols. But to the thousands of blissfully bendy beings on this island, it’s International Yoga Day. Yes, this ancient Indian practice is officially commemorated worldwide on June 21, thanks to the United Nations who – on the strength of a speech from the Prime Minister of the subcontinent himself – sanctioned the celebration back in 2015.
Actually, it’s no coincidence that the northern hemisphere’s longest day of the year was chosen to mark Yoga Day: apparently the summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana: a time when Shiva, the first yogi, is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of his craft to the rest of mankind. And midsummer is also considered to be an auspicious time for those who pursue spiritual practices… Which, in 2015, amounted to more than two million devotees – the number who marked the very first International Day of Yoga with events around the world.
Here in Cyprus, given our smaller national population, our yogic gatherings are unlikely to break any records. Though, to be fair, last year’s event did see more than 250 yoga enthusiasts head to the hills for a free yoga session with guru Manshu Agrey, courtesy of the High Commission of India and the Municipality of Platres. This year, though the main local event is still hosted by the Indian High Commission, both venue and time have changed… In 2018, all the flexing and stretching will be taking place at the Tassos Papadopoulos Athletic Centre in Engomi, Nicosia, on June 17 between 10am and roughly 12.30pm.
According to the High Commission, many of the yoga schools across the island will be joining together this coming Sunday to celebrate this “ancient Indian discipline, which evolved thousands of years ago for physical and spiritual wellbeing of humankind. Yoga has gained worldwide popularity due to its immense health benefits,” organisers add. “It not only helps in improving physical health but also brings about inner peace by reducing stress and anxiety. Medical research in recent years has uncovered many physical and mental benefits that yoga offers, corroborating the experience of millions of practitioners.”
It’s apt that India should be spearheading International Yoga Day – not only did the practice originate in the subcontinent, the word itself derives from Sanskrit. Symbolising the union of body and consciousness, and translating as ‘to join’ or ‘to unite’, organisers are expecting to see double last year’s numbers joining in this mass yogic union led by Guru Gaurav Vohra, who is permanently appointed to the High Commission.
“We start with a brief speech from the High Commissioner,” explains Suresh Sharma, Cultural and Commercial Attaché, “then it’s yoga for 45 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of meditation, and a short dance programme led by a number of ladies from the Punjab. The yoga demonstration will include basic postures that are very simple and beneficial; yoga has so many benefits, and we’re holding the event to promote health and wellness across the island.
“All levels from beginners to experts are welcome,” he adds. Yes, even those of us who couldn’t downward dog for more than a few seconds and have no idea how to salute the sun are encouraged to take part, with all participants on the day receiving a yoga mat, yoga books, and a yoga t-shirt along with a certificate of participation. Totally free of charge, and with transport from other cities arranged, all you have to do is dig out your stretchy yoga pants, get yourself to the stadium, and settle back to enjoy the rejuvenation of mind, body, and soul – along with a more holistic approach to life – engendered by the practice of yoga!
4th International Day of Yoga
Organised by the High Commission of India, from 10am to 12.30pm on June 17 at the Tassos Papadopoulos Athletic Centre in Engomi, Nicosia. Participation is free of charge. For more information, visit the Facebook event page International Day of Yoga 2018 Cyprus or contact the High Commission on 22 351741