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by Shobana Muratee and Harsha Mary Pradeep
Stand, stretch, bend, and breathe were the simple steps demonstrated by renowned yoga teachers on June 21 at the George R. Brown Convention Center where thousands of Houstonians rolled out their mats and celebrated Houston’s inaugural International Yoga Day (IYD).
The day-long, free yoga fair commemorating IYD was organized by the Consulate General of India in conjunction with Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA). In addition, 200 volunteers, sponsors and vendors from around Houston came together to make Sunday’s event a grand success.
Welcoming over 3000 participants, Consul General of India, Houston, P. Harish explained that while yoga is perceived differently by different people, its primary focus is to “rebound, retain and rebuild.” Even the simple act of “resisting a piece of chocolate,” is practicing yoga, he said.
The United Nations’ resolution to dedicate June 21 as IYD is a powerful testament to the proven cross-cultural, transnational power of the practice to promote inner peace and harmony.
The brainchild of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government also made a marked effort on Sunday to express its gratitude for the support shown to the IYD initiative by the UN and 177 co-sponsor nations.
Events in Houston began with the US national anthem sung by Keerthana Bhat, Lekha Yesanthrao and Apoorva Das and Indian national anthem sung by Dr. Shobha Raju, Padma Shri awardee, and accompanying artists from India.
Twelve distinguished yoga teachers were presented the ‘Yoga Service Award 2015’: Dr. Anne Carolyn Klein, Billie Gollnick, Robert Boustany, Charles MacInerney, Daksha Shah, Dr. Alejandro Chaoul, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, Dr. Harish Chandra, Elizabeth Reese, Jennifer Buergermeister, Kay Westcott and Shriram Sarvotham by Consul General Harish. Patanjali president Shekhar Agrawal was also honored on the occasion.
“Houston is not only a diverse, inclusive and welcoming city but also has a rich yoga ecosystem spanning different schools, practices and lineages,” Harish said.
An informative Namaskar video was presented by ISHA Yoga, after which gurus Sarvotham, Gollnick, Adam Searle, Boustany, Agrawal and Chandra led the participants in a collective yoga session that included asanas (posture) and pranayama (breathing).
Yoga masters Boustany, Catherine Allen, Ann Hyde and Kabir Samlal also performed demonstrations that left the audience in awe.
After lunch, more than 30 children from the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh demonstrated proper practice for children while Beth Reese led the children’s yoga session and energized the crowd with a fun class for families.
Robert Boustany concurrently led a panel discussion on the therapeutic effects of yoga practice.
In the afternoon, Ravi Bommu and Vasanth Balasubramani of ISHA Yoga graced the crowd with a beautiful performance of Upa Yoga that activates the body’s energy system and Robert Boustany demonstrated Yoga Nidra, which reduces tension and anxiety. Finally, Dr. Harish Chandra instructed the gathering on mediation based on Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga.
The event came to a close around 4 pm, and being Father’s Day as well, many felt it was a day well spent with friends and family.