Promoting India as a Yoga Destination
To showcase the benefits of India’s ancient form of health science – yoga – and the potential of it as a tourism product, the Ministry of Tourism presented a webinar on ‘India as a Yoga Destination’ under the Dekho Apna Desh series.
The webinar highlighted the current yoga landscape and how it can be leveraged to broad base and scale up tourism in India.
The session was moderated by Rupinder Brar, additional director general of Ministry of Tourism and presented by Achal Mehra who is the CEO of Greenway (a social impact company) and founder of an eco-friendly resort Mahua Vann in Madhya Pradesh. As a yoga teacher, Achal has been regularly teaching in Mumbai and has also taught at the international yoga festival in the United Kingdom and Paris, apart from conducting regular yoga retreats at his resort in Pench.
Achal Mehra, began the session by appreciating the efforts of Prime Minister Narendra Modi who in his United Nations address suggested the date of June 21 to be recognized and celebrated as International Day of Yoga, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world. Therefore, the first International Day of Yoga is celebrated on that day in 2015. The theme for this year’s ‘International Day of Yoga was ‘Yoga at home, Yoga with family’ considering the adverse effects of the pandemic.
According to Achal, Yoga is not just a physical exercise, it is a holistic approach to health and well-being which unveils the full potential of human beings. Yoga has four dimensions to a being that is physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. There are certain misconceptions about the physical dimension of yoga that it is a very gentle exercise and it can’t help in reducing body weight and keeping it in shape. Yoga tests your body in three aspects- strength, balance and endurance. One can lose 300gm of his body weight in a session of Surya Namaskar in one hour. The ultimate objective of yoga exercise is to increase the energy levels. For example, Anulom-Vilom performed by contraction and expansion of breath helps in increasing the energy level of the lungs.
Apart from increasing the energy levels, the yoga exercises and postures also help in keeping the mind quiet and still. India has yoga sutras for keeping the mind still and quiet like ‘Stirsukham Asana’ which means stillness in body posture for a longer time to influence the mind. It works behind the scientific principle of whatever happens to the body will also happen to the mind. If the body is still then the mind will also become still. Another one is ‘Anant Sampati Brahma’ which means dropping your ego. It states that yoga is not about the physical limits, instead it’s about breathing and deep breath comes from the quietness of the mind.
India has a large reservoir of ancient wisdom like yoga schools and institutes. There are two main branches of yoga schools in our country- Ashtanga yoga and Hatha yoga. There are famous institutes in Rishikesh, Yoga Dharamshala in Goa, Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga in Delhi and many other premier knowledge centres spread across the nation. Apart from the institutes, our country has a lot of potential to provide yoga and wellness experiences. Khajuraho, Pondicherry, Rajasthan and Sikkim are few places which are natural yet cultural. More yoga institutes and wellness centres should be developed in these locations to boost the wealth of wellness tourism in India.
The benefits of yoga were realized by the West first and in the present times they have a more organized structure in the wellness field. But India has realized the importance of its own culture of yoga and are working to make this sector more organized.
During this pandemic, yoga institutes and trainers conducted virtual sessions. The UN organized a virtual yoga event from 3-4pm on the occasion of International Day of Yoga. This shows that our ancient wealth is being recognized on an international level. So, we as the natives of our country should dig into our ancient culture and tradition of Yoga and wellness which could help us in attaining better health and also in bringing a change in the tourism industry and its products after this pandemic.