Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday led over 50,000 yoga enthusiasts in performing ‘asanas’ amid showers on the International Yoga Day as he underlined the importance of the ancient practice in connecting India with the world and promoting wellness.
Yoga, he stressed, has the power of health insurance at zero cost. “We can save the people from many problems if 1.25 billion countrymen achieve this through healthy body, mind and intelligence,” he said.
“The speciality of yoga is keeping the mind stable...it teaches the art of living with a healthy mind amidst the ups and downs of life,” said Modi, visibly happy with the heavy turnout at the sprawling Rambai Ambedkar Maidan despite inclement weather since early morning.
“Today yoga has become a part of common man’s life. There are many countries which do not know our language, traditions or culture but the entire world is getting connected with us because of yoga,” said 66-year-old Modi, who was attired in a white T-shirt and loose trousers.
Amid chants of ‘Modi-Modi’, the prime minister said yoga, which connects body with mind and intelligence, is playing an important role in connecting the whole world.
Recalling as to how the United Nations gave its nod for the International Yoga Day, he said there might not be any country where yoga-related programmes are not held or attraction or awareness towards it has not grown.
Along with Modi, Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and several dignitaries performed various yogic asanas.
Stressing on the relevance of yoga in employment too, the prime minister said yoga institutes have come up in large numbers in the past three years and demand for yoga teachers has also grown.
“Youth are preparing themselves in yoga institutes, accepting yoga as a profession...there is a demand for yoga teachers in all the countries... a new job market is being created through yoga in which the people of India get top priority,” he pointed out.
“Unlike the earlier times when people used to practice yoga as per their own ways, there is now an effort both in the country and outside to perform yoga in a scientific manner by standardising it,” he said, adding that once it was only performed by the “munis and rishis” in the caves of Himalayas.
“UNESCO has given nod to yoga as the heritage of human culture... today in many states of the country yoga has been adopted as part of their education so that future generations get apprised of this science of ours to help it become the part of their lives,” he said.
Speaking on the benefits of yoga, Modi said the importance of wellness is more than being healthy and fitness and yoga is an easy way to acquire this wellness.
“There is no question mark on yoga anywhere in the world... Yoga has been evolving with time and generations and it has been developing... On this important occasion, I urge people of the world to make yoga a part of their lives...whether we become masters of yoga or not, achievers or not, but we need to become its practitioners...,” Modi said.
Nearly 5,000 yoga enthusiasts from the Muslim Rashtriya Manch -- the Muslim wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh -- participated in yoga day activities throughout the state.
“In Lucknow alone, around 2,000 office bearers and workers of the Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) took part in yoga day activities at Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan,” Raees Khan, MRM’s UP and Uttarakhand in-charge said.
More than 50 students along with four teachers of Shia PG College, Lucknow also participated in the yoga day, said Maulana Asoob Abbas, the spokesperson of the All India Shia Personal Law Board.
Apart from this, close to five dozen Muslim men and women performed various Yoga asanas in Sambhal on Wednesday.
A large number of divyaangs (physically-challenged persons) also participated in the third International Day of Yoga programmes held throughout the state.
WATCH: PM Modi at Yoga Day celebrations
The prime minister, who is himself a yoga enthusiast, stressed that those who start practicing it realise that their body parts have become supple and that they have become active.
“We do not require any special power to understand this,” he stressed.
Drawing a comparison with salt to underline the importance of yoga, Modi said though salt is needed only in small quantity and is easily available, it is vital not only for taste but also for the body.
“If there is no salt in the food the whole day, it not only spoils the taste but also harms the body... It is used only in small quantity, no one can negate its importance in the body’s constitution or its requirement... We can have the same place for yoga as salt in life,” he said.
Modi said there was no need to perform yoga round-the-clock as only 50 to 60 minutes are enough.
In a lighter vein, Modi said yoga enthusiasts at the Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan were not only spreading a message that yoga is important in life, but they were also demonstrating as to how yoga mats could be used to protect them from rain.
“People of Lucknow have turned up despite rains... your effort is praiseworthy,” he said referring to people taking cover under yoga mats to save themselves from the downpour.
A tight security cordon was thrown around venue and all arterial roads were under strict CCTV vigil.
The day also witnessed a number of foreign nationals participating in the event despite inclement weather.
"It was a special occasion for me to perform various (yogic) postures here, and I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it," said 48-year-old Mao Ki, a resident of Japan, while leaving the venue after completion of the programme.
Inmates in various jails of the state also enthusiastically participated in the yoga day under supervision of expert teachers in jail. The response was fantastic, as it induced a feeling of positivity among the inmates, UP Jail minister Jai Kumar Singh told PTI.
The Samajwadi Party celebrated the International Day of Yoga day by undertaking 'cycle yatras' across the state. Directives were issued to partymen by SP National President Akhilesh Yadav to take out cycle yatra at all district headquarter from 6 am and later perform yoga as per their convenience at their homes.
Though Akhilesh has been extended an invitation by the Yogi government for the event in the city, he did not turn up at the venue. When the SP was in power, it had shunned official celebrations on this day.
If the opposition decided to cycle on the day, the farmers decided to strike the corpse pose. A group of farmers performed 'shavasana' or the corpse pose on a national highway to symbolically protest killing of farmers in Mandsaur and "anti-farm" policies of the Modi government.
Farmers under the banner of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) performed 'shavasana' on the Lucknow-Barabanki Highway. BKU spokesman Alok Verma said, "Hundreds of farmers performed 'shavasana' on Lucknow-Barabaki Highway near Safedabad between 9 am to 11 am as part of our protest today".
A similar protest was organised by farmers on the Lucknow-Sitapur Highway.
A special yoga session for farmers was organised in Pratapgarh, in which close to 70 farmers took part.
"The farmers got motivated after seeing PM Narendra Modi perforing various yoga asanas," yoga event organiser Janki Sharan Pandey said.
Rains failed to dampen the spirits of yoga enthusiasts in the state.
Giving details of the weather situation, Lucknow District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma said that it rained heavily with high speed wind for about 30 minutes starting at 4.00 am. Rain continued till the end of the programme.
"Due to rain and wind, 21 participants complained of hypothermia (shivering and cold) and headache. Some of them were treated in temporary hospitals set up at the venue. All of them were later brought by ambulances to Lokbandhu Hospital.
"For primary treatment they were admitted for 2-3 hours. They were discharged after their condition became normal," the Lucknow DM said.