Tomorrow , June 21 is the International Yoga day. It was in 2014 that the United Nations General assembly approved India’s proposal to make June 21 International yoga day. Just before the voting the President of the 69th session of General Assembly Sam Kutesa said:
“For centuries, people from all walks of life have practiced yoga, recognizing its unique embodiment of unity between mind and body. Yoga brings thought and action together in harmony.”
The UN Secretary General said:
“Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace”.
When ever u listen to fans of yoga talking about it we hear similar claims. Yoga in India and even internationally is now so much a hyped up work out method that it is hard to find a true statement about yoga. Let us examine some “yogic” myths
1. The currently practiced yoga is several thousand years old.
The word yoga is very ancient but it had nothing to do with currently practiced yoga postures. Pathanjali in 400 CE only talk about one posture,that of sitting motionless for meditation. Most of the postures are only about 150 years old.
2. Yoga postures practiced today are of pure Indian origin.
The truth is the postures are of mixed origins. The postures are an “eclectic amalgam of hatha yoga techniques, British military calisthenics, and the regional gymnastic and wrestling traditions of southwestern India” (Sjoman 1996)
3. Postural Yoga was very popular in ancient India.
Yoga was never a popular sport before late 20th century in India. It became popular first in USA than in India. That is why you have never heard of men of your grandfather’s age practicing yoga.
4. Practicing Yoga is the best way to promote health
Sedentary life is sure to bring ill health. Anything that moves muscles and bones promotes health. But there is no evidence to show yoga has any special benefits. It is only a mild form of physical activity.
5. Yoga is the best way to reduce body weight in obese persons
Of Course not. One hour of yoga burns only about 180 calories while brisk walking for the same time burns more than 300. Yoga is only a mild form of exercise.
6. Yoga is the best way to prevent heart attacks and Diabetes
There is no data to prove this.
7. Yoga prevent cancers.
8. Yoga is the best way to reduce stress
Studies have shown that African dance, relaxations techniques etc are equal or better than yoga in reducing stress.
9. Yoga can cure many diseases
Except for some benefit in some types of back pain yoga cannot cure any diseases.
10. Yoga is very safe.
No it is not. It can cause pain in the back, neck,,shoulder, can cause intervertebral disc prolapse, vertigo and even fractures. It is not for people with sciatica , high blood pressure, glaucoma etc.
If you go to the official webpage of International yoga day, a page endorsed by UN bodies and run by Indian government, you can see the Hindutva myths depicted as true facts.
In India today, yoga is a convenient tool of Hindutva government to propagate the myth of supremacy of “Hindu yogic culture” over all other religions and philosophies. It is a shame that United Nations is a party to it.