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5th International Day of Yoga—an educational and fun experience

By Mahadev Desai and Geeta Mehrotra
July 2019
5th International Day of Yoga—an educational and fun experience


(Left) Emcee Vrishali Deshpande Angara helped guide the proceedings for the 5th International Day of Yoga in Sandy Springs, metro Atlanta. (Photo: Magic Dust Photography, Jasveer & Hemant Shah)


Over a thousand yoga-lovers from diverse communities in Atlanta and representatives from 50 plus community organizations came together at the Heritage Park, Sandy Springs, on Sunday morning, June 23, 2019, to participate in the 5th International Day of Yoga (IDY, with an appropriate theme: Climate Action), organized by the Consulate General of India in Atlanta and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

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Lighting the diya. (Photo: SFA Productions, Vinod Sharma)

Consul General of India, Hon. Dr. Swati Kulkarni, Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, Dir. General Vincent Liu (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) and his wife Gloria Chiao graced and inaugurated the event. After the traditional lighting of the diya (lamp) by Dr. Kulkarni, Mayor Rusty Paul, Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia, and core committee team members, founding member of idyatlanta.org, Ajay Houde warmly welcomed all. “Today is the 5th International Day of Yoga. It is being celebrated all over the world, and as India’s Prime Minister Modi ji said, it has become a movement for promoting health, harmony, and peace.”



(Right) Consul Shailesh Lakhtakia. (Photo: Magic Dust Photography, Jasveer & Hemant Shah)

Consul Lakhtakia conveyed a message from the Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy, i.e. alternative medicines), that yoga is for all of us, and that we are invited to join the IDY movement.

In a video message, PM Modi hailed yoga as one of the most precious gifts given by the ancient sages to humankind. He exhorted yoga practitioners to resolve every year to get as many people as possible to yoga and help make yoga a ‘mass movement’ for better physical and mental well-being. Yoga (meaning union) is a path to completeness. The way yoga unites body, mind, and spirit, it is now uniting the world, he asserted. People suffer from stress-related illnesses and lifestyle-related diseases. Yoga is ideal for relaxation. In a distracted world, yoga helps us focus.

In her lively remarks, Dr. Kulkarni wished everyone a Happy and Healthy Yoga Day. IDY was declared by the UN General Assembly to highlight the virtues of practicing yoga. India’s erstwhile foreign minister had declared yoga as the best soft power India has to bring the world together and help in ending an increasing trend of violence in the world. Yoga is a science, a way of life, and a philosophy which gives you good health on all the fronts: physical, mental, moral, spiritual, and social. We all encounter stress everywhere on many fronts. We all know the disadvantages of sedentary life and indoor life. We are in a rat race coping with peer pressure and competition. As Dr. Bob Moorehead said, these are days of fast food and slow digestion, steep profits and shallow relationships, fancy houses but broken homes,obesity,disposable diapers, throwaway morality, less empathetic society, and pills that promise a cure but instead kill us.

Yoga gives cure to all this, she explained, through performance of asanas (postural exercises), activities of maximum endurance, and contraction and relaxation of muscles, which help to achieve maximum benefit with minimum time. Here, less is more. Through breathing techniques (pranayama), slow and deeper breath helps develop concentration and even short circuit our negativity. Meditation (dhyana) helps us discipline mental activity. For a yoga practitioner, saatvik (vegetarian) diet is considered the best. For yoga, all one needs is a small space, a yoga mat, and your body and mind. Yoga has preventive and therapeutic values. It increases the oxygen supply and develops immunity.

She emphasized that religion has nothing to do with yoga, so it promotes communal harmony, cohesiveness, national harmony, and world peace. “You have to follow the Common Yoga Protocol (CYP, created by the Indian government),” she said. “Through yoga, we remove life’s imbalances and we provide ourselves with self-assertion, self-expression and self-actualization. Let’s make yoga viral today because it is being celebrated in huge numbers by 170 Consulate missions all over the world, so let us also contribute from our corner of the world.”

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Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul. (Photo: Magic Dust Photography, Jasveer & Hemant Shah)


Mayor Paul greeted all with a ‘Namaste.’ “What a beautiful sight and what a marvelous day to celebrate the IDY, which is one of the highlights of our year in our community. We love having the Indian Consulate in our community here. It is a great asset. We have a marvelous relationship with the current Consul General and the previous Consul-Generals. We also welcome the other members from the Consular corps and the esteemed guests from the metropolitan area.” He noted that he was happy to be able to attend as in the past he has always been out of town, and he was happy to celebrate his birthday with the community!



(Right) Dr. Somveer Arya, demonstrating the difficult nauli kriya (abdominal cleansing). (Photo: Magic Dust Photography, Jasveer & Hemant Shah)

Sudhir Agarwal, from the organizing committee team introduced the two emcees. Vrishali Deshpande Angara, is the winner of Mrs. Bharat USA Classic 2018, a trained Hindustani classical singer, anchor, dancer, and a health-care recruiter by profession. Inspired by Sadhguru’s inner engineering, she firmly believes that it’s the mind-body connection which brings peace and harmony in her life. The other emcee, Dr. Somveer Arya, has a Ph.D. in Yoga from Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar, and was a yoga expert in DD Vyas Channel under the University Grant Commission of India. He is currently a teacher of Indian Culture and Yoga in the Consulate General of India, Atlanta, under the Ministry of External Affairs, India (MEA).

Following the chanting of the Gayatri Mantra by the young members of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the emcees, with the help of seasoned yoga volunteers on the stage, took turns to guide the attendees in performing an array of asanas from basic to more advanced, from the CYP. As soft music played in the background, attendees collectively performed warm-ups, standing, sitting, prone, and supine asanas with yoga practitioners from the HSS, Vedik Temple (GAVT), Lifetime Group, and Chinmaya Mission. They were led in kapalabhati pranayama (breathing) by PatanjaliYogpeeth, dhyana (meditation) and sankalpa (commitment to the truth). The gathering, led by HSS and Art of Living’s Art Excel students, performed ten-step Surya Namaskar (sun salutations) thirteen times!

The gathering applauded the demonstration of the difficult nauli kriya (abdominal cleansing) by Dr. Somveer Arya.

Sahaja Yoga volunteers also guided with steps for awakening kundalini energy. Art of Living volunteers guided the gathering in meditation practice.

After a session of twisting and bending in the very warm weather what better to lighten up than a pleasant treat in the form of ‘laughing yoga’ led by Dinesh Purohit. Soon the park reverberated with joyous, enthusiastic loud ho ho, ha ha and ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! No doubt this energized all the participants!

Volunteer trainers shared the Heartfulness meditation prayer. Pyramid Spiritual Society members guided the gathering on ana-pana-sati breath meditation.

Participants were also treated to dance and music items. 


HUM (Hearts Unite Mankind) sound journey was a hypnotic musical presentation by Ashley Chase; as she made her quartz crystal bowls sing, she was accompanied by djembe drummer Quinton Wayne and flautist Nyeemah Soulsayer, proficient in native American and African flutes. (Photo: SFA Productions, Vinod Sharma)



Maria Martynova performed a fast, vigorous Tandava dance filled with rhythm, energy, poise, throbbing music, and lyrics. (Photo: Magic Dust Photography, Jasveer & Hemant Shah)

A yoga routine in dance form presented by Shubhra Singh Chohan, Hetal Mehta, Bharti Khatri, Elliott Michele, and Pradnya Kharat of Dream Girl Entertainment was riveting to watch. (Photo: SFA Productions, Vinod Sharma)

This was followed with another graceful, energetic dance by Art of Living members.

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At a booth near the entrance to Heritage Park, a banner announced ‘Consul General of India, Atlanta celebrating 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi: Vegetarian Food Festival.’ Here volunteers gave out brown bags with fruit, cookies, beverage, power bars, etc. (Photo: SFA Productions, Vinod Sharma)

The program concluded with the closing sankalpa (vow) by HSS volunteers, and the shanti (peace) mantra by Sadhvi Prempuri.

"The Common Yoga Protocol," 4th revised edition, May 2019, a 53-page booklet.



The sound system was ably managed by Sandeep Savla and Saurabh Sharma.
More than 100 volunteers put enormous efforts to make this program a grand success.
Very effective use of social media was made to exhort the community to attend.
Dream Girl Entertainment: https://www.facebook.com/Dream-Girl-Entertainment-LLC-255042075348440/




(Left) Consul Lakhtakia and the volunteer team. (Photo: SFA Productions, Vinod Sharma)

The Consulate and Sudhir Agarwal, Rajan Vedak, Ajay Houde, Rajeev Menon, Vasudev Patel, Manoj Barot (of Narayan Seva Sansthan), Dr. Somveer Arya, Dr. Trushna Rao, Dr. Shrinath Nadig, and Viral Trivedi, to mention a few, did a commendable job in ensuring a flawless and memorable celebration of the 5th IDY.

[The article above is a Website Bonus Feature, appearing only on the website for July 2019, not in the print/digital issues. Link for "The Common Yoga Protocol" booklet added July 3, 2019.]


 Remember, we have new Website Bonus Features that are not in the print magazine. Every time you see the W symbol in the print magazine, you can go to our website to see additional print or audiovisual material!

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