Egypt stretches for celebrations of first International Yoga Day on 21 June

Ati Metwaly , Friday 19 Jun 2015

Football star Emad Meteb will join International Yoga Day celebrations at the Embassy of India; Renowned Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan released a special video promoting the event to the world

Yoga Session at Misr Public LIbrary at Al Zawya Al Hamra on 17 June 2015 (Photo: Embassy of India facebook page)

'Yoga, live life to its full potential' is the motto of the first international celebration of yoga set for 21 June.

Joining millions of people across the world, the Embassy of India in Cairo will be hosting a special event at India House in Zamalek.

This is the first time for yoga to be celebrated by the whole world. The decision comes as a result of a resolution approved by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) last year.

In September 2014 during the 69th session of UNGA, the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi submitted a resolution to launch International Yoga Day.

In December of the same year, the 193-member UNGA agreed to the proposal with 177 countries co-sponsoring the resolution, a record number for any cross-cultural activity of the assembly.

The decision was soon paralleled by the UN's release of the Common Yoga Protocol, a small booklet providing a brief overview about yoga and yogic practices "to orient one towards comprehensive health for an individual and the community.”

As he presented the resolution to the UNGA, the prime minister described yoga as 'an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition.'

"It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, restraint and fulfillment, harmony between men and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day."

As 21 June begins, celebrations will start in the Far East, moving towards the West. All countries and continents will join the celebrations starting from Asia, through Africa and Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean and to the Americas, and finishing on the Hawaiian shores.

“The practice of yoga brings peace of mind, reduces stress, improves health and brings people together in celebration,” Ambassador of India, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, said during a small gathering with journalists held at the India House last week.

The ambassador continued by stressing the long history of yogic practices in India.

"Before there was any sense of community or any religion was adopted. We have had practitioners of yoga for centuries and centuries... and we are happy that today many people across the world share with us this wonderful tradition and practice."

The oldest signs of yoga practice send us back to 3000 BC and are linked to Shamanism beliefs that relate to the practice of an altered state of mind.

Yoga is also mentioned in Rigveda, a collection of ancient Indian sacred texts dating back to the 18th century BC.

Contemporary practices of yoga stress principles presented by a Hindu spiritual teacher Sivananda Saraswati (1887 – 1963) that includes elements of relaxation, exercise, breathing and meditation, while also underscoring the importance of a proper diet and the conscious practice of positive thinking.

The ambassador highlighted that many schools in India incorporate yoga in their daily physical exercises.

"It is not uncommon that many people in rural areas -- which represent over 60% of the total population of India -- begin their day with yoga practice," the ambassador added. 

Renowned Bollywood actor and India's pride Amitabh Bachchan, who has been invited to join the celebrations of the International Yoga Day, recently released a promotional video in which he encourages people all around the world to practice yoga.

"I practice yoga every day. It has nurtured and enriched my life. Yoga must be done with proper guidance and concentration," Bachchan says in the short video.

Amitabh Bachchan on Yoga

Today yoga is known through a variety of schools, and though each is rooted in a slightly different philosophy and tradition, all of the practices lead to the ultimate general aims and objectives of yoga that works on the level of one's body, mind, emotions and energy.

Over the past decades, yoga has gained substantial popularity worldwide. The widely practiced forms include Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Samadhi, Mantra-japa and Anusara, among several others.

Multiple yoga styles have also been practiced in Egypt through many centres scattered across Cairo and other cities.

For several years now, the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture in downtown Cairo has held regular yoga classes for two groups: beginners and advanced students.

"There are many students whose level is quite impressive," the ambassador said, adding that there is around a total of 150 students enrolled in the centre.

"In past weeks, I had a chance to meet with the representatives of 14 different schools of yoga practiced in Cairo itself. They will all join us for the 21 June celebrations," the ambassador said, adding that there are also many small communities, especially in Alexandria and Port Said, which practice yoga on a regular basis and have done so for some time.

Yoga was one of the highlights of the third edition of India by the Nile, a multi-disciplinary annual festival that celebrated Indian culture in Egypt in April 2014. In this edition, a number of workshops and events dedicated to yoga were organised in Cairo and Alexandria, including free yoga sessions in Al Azhar Park, attended by hundreds.

In the run up to International Yoga Day, the MACIC has organised four yoga sessions on Common Yoga Protocol on 4, 5, 11 and 13 June at their premises. Al Gezira Club and Children’s Civilization and Creativity Centre, as well as Heliopolis have also organised special yoga learning sessions on 13 June at their venues. Another curtain raiser took place on 17 June at Misr Public Library.

Joining 193 countries, the Embassy of India will be holding the Grand Yoga Session (Ramadan Special) at India House located at 19, Mohamed Mazhar St., Zamalek.

One of the highlights of the evening will be the attendance of Egyptian football star Emad Meteb.

"Meteb is to Egypt as Tendulkar is to India,” the Indian embassy said on their Facebook page.

The Embassy of India in Cairo has also organised a photography competition ‘Yoga in Egypt’, with the winners to be announced at the evening session.  

Yoga session at Misr Public Library


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