By Sujantra McKeever
Yoga is becoming a lifestyle choice for millions of people around the world. Yoga embodies personal health, wellness and a worldview focused on balance, strength and flexibility.
Even the United Nations is getting onboard!
This past June 17th 2017, our yoga studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart, located in San Diego, California, hosted a free, all-day yoga festival to express and share the lofty ideals of yoga. The event was organized around the 2014 proclamation whereby the United Nations declared June 21st to be known for all time as the International Day of Yoga.
2017’s International Day of Yoga in San Diego took place in Balboa Park and was a huge success! It featured two large group classes (with over 500 people attending!) and smaller workshop-style events, where participants were able to choose from a variety of specialized yoga classes and attend at their leisure (like acro-yoga, meditations, yoga therapy and other specialty classes). This is our second year of offering this event and our attendance doubled over our first year of sponsoring the event in 2016.
Over 40 vendors offered their products and services, and there was public speaking and music to open and close the festival. People came from as far as Mexico and Arizona to join in the celebration for a full day of yoga and to share in the feeling of community, wellness and peace. One participant called the event, “…amazing, beautiful location…love Pilgrimage for setting this up.” Another said, “I love the energy of the event!”
The United Nations and yoga have a common ideal, a shared belief and wisdom: the betterment of life will come through harmony, cooperation and inner peace. Unfortunately, this wisdom is not yet shared by everyone.
Many people prefer to fight and argue, to bully others. This applies to both people and nations. I argue with you and you with me, we fight to find out who is stronger, whose ideas are better, and whose list of priorities is greater. Not only do we fight, we even kill our fellow human beings.
But there is another way, and this festival express that opportunity. The pictures of our event show that a more enlightened approach to life is within our reach. Within each of us is the alternative to anger and hatred. Peace and fellowship are possible, practical and inevitable.
Yoga philosophy teaches that peace will dawn on earth only when peace exists in the hearts of individuals. True peace is not a document or a treaty, true peace is the feeling of oneness and community.
The United Nations was created in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. People at the time wanted to be sure there would never be another war of that magnitude. The charter of the United Nations states its reasons for being:
“ To maintain international peace and security … to develop friendly relations among nations … [To encourage] respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion; and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in the attainment of these common ends.”
By practicing yoga we bring balance, strength and flexibility to our body, breath, mind and emotions. From there it shines into our thoughts, words and actions. It then spreads person-to-person, nation-to-nation. This is what we aim to do and contribute daily at the San Diego yoga studio and through our online yoga studio.
Yoga is not just a personal practice; it can also be a foundation for social change. The lives and activities of many world movers and shakers such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela are all rooted in the principle non-violence, which is a cornerstone of the yoga philosophy.
Albert Einstein said: “Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” Through yoga we begin to understand ourselves; with that understanding we can then begin to understand others.
Mother Teresa said: “Peace begins with a smile.” Practicing yoga is that smile, the quest for inner and outer happiness.
My meditation teacher, Sri Chinmoy, led twice-weekly meditations at the United Nations in New York for over 37 years. He wrote: “If a large number of people accept Yoga, then the face of society would be completely changed.”
Spending the day with 700 people who are the harbingers of that change was a great honor and privilege. I could see and feel what is possible for individuals and for society if only we would trust in the power of peace that yoga awakens.
We are already making preparations for our 2018 Festival and details can be found on our website at www.festivalofyogasandiego.org.