Over 500 Yoga Practitioners at the 4th International Day of Yoga

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: The 4th International Day of Yoga at Midtown Park on June 21, beat all expectations with over 500 yoga practitioners showing up in their yoga gear. Non-Indians clearly outnumbered desis in the record turnout, proving that yoga has entered mainstream America.

The event was organized in partnership with the Consulate General of India, Houston, yoga studios, Indian organizations and major partner YOUniverSOUL. Key sponsors were well known industrialist and philanthropist Dr. Durga Agrawal and Bill Newman, Area President at A.J.Gallagher & Co.

New additions to the program this year made it varied and interesting. A demonstration of the most difficult yoga poses by Melissa Riedel, Reggie Ahmad, Austin Dunn and Nicklous Dutcher set the tone and displayed some impressive core strength, mental focus and flexibility.  A message by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also played.

Yoga coordinator for Houston, Sharad Amin was visibly delighted to see the crowds who filled up the entire park. He thanked the weather gods for bringing out the sun after a gloomy week and stated that the program “demonstrated universal oneness which can be achieved by Yoga, India’s gift to world.”

President and founder of Patanjali Yogpeeth USA and renowned yoga teacher, Shekhar Agrawal served as Emcee. Describing yoga as a great step to “awaken the sleeping giant within us,” he invited the city’s top yoga teachers to take the gathering through some yoga asanas, relaxation techniques and meditation practices.

Director of SVYASA, Vishwarupa Nanjundappa and Olivia Keller, owner of the Black Swan Yoga School guided the group through several standing, sitting and supine postures. Roger Rippy led the group through some relaxation techniques to “see the truth of this moment” accompanied by soul soothing music that “resonates with the chakras” by Saumil Manik. Robert Boustany, initiator of Pralay Yoga guided the pranayama (breathing) exercises and encouraged the gathering “to breathe in with love and gratitude for this life and breathe out and let go of whatever you no longer wish to hold.” They were joined by ten yoga teachers on stage including Amit Khanna, a teacher of Indian culture sent by the Government of India at the Indian Consulate.

A beautiful Bharatnatyam dance of Shiva, the first Yogi, by the Anjali School of Performing Arts was highly appreciated for its graceful movements particularly by the non-Indians.

A concluding prayer was invoked to “channel our energies in the right direction” after which participants broke out in a lively exchange of powdered colors or Holi as it is known in India.

Speaking to a cross section of people gathered there about what drew them to yoga, responses ranged from a search for spiritual awakening to yoga as an “avenue to heighten and grow” in the spiritual journey. One young lady spoke of “leaving everything at the yoga studio door” for an hour of peace and calm and then leaving the studio inspired to do good.

Some came to raise the vibrational frequency of the planet, connect with themselves and their bodies on a deeper level or get a perfect workout for the body, mind and soul.
Common responses to how it helped in daily life included being happier, fewer mood swings, increased concentration and energy, heightened productivity and a dramatic lowering of stress levels.

Yoga teacher Regie Ahmad, whose gravity defying yoga poses astounded the crowds, described yoga as his primary physical and spiritual practice. Five years ago when he told people he practices yoga, they looked surprised but now, he says, “it’s such a normal and mainstream thing to get into.”