Yoga takes a celebrity bow for the second annual UN International Day of Yoga on 21 June, amidst the shock and horror following the savage assassination of the young Jo Cox MP, the frenzied political EU voting debate, and hoards of refugees fleeing into the remaining safe havens on the planet. None of this is new – these are repeat shows playing on a loop of world history.
I find myself swinging between despondency about the world and then to fiery energy spurring me on to do something, before my time is up, to add a little more peace – one person at a time – to the world’s current turbulent cocktail.
When Swami Vishnudevananda, founded a global organisation of yoga centres – there are 70 International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams – he established the first yoga teacher training courses in the west so that graduates would become ambassadors of peace bringing the whole person approach of yoga and meditation to stressed western populations.
In the 1970s and 1980s Swami Vishnu flew a light aircraft over the world’s trouble spots: Northern Ireland, the Middle East and the Berlin Wall – dropping flower bombs and peace flyers. Israeli military attempted to force him to land and East German police sent him back to West Berlin on a train with a cheese sandwich following a four hour interrogation after his landing in a field.
And in this way, yoga’s teachings were connected to the world’s troubles. This takes some strength, vision and determination – qualities that are cultivated with a regular yoga practise. We could all do with more.
Going by the trend in teacher training today, churning out teachers using wine as a clever promotional tool to fill retreats, putting financial fear in the driving seat as they compete aggressively with others, and even styling themselves as suburban gurus, you would be forgiven for believing that this is yoga. But now you know a tiny bit about Swami Vishnu’s life work, you get a wider perspective on the real deal: the guru is within you found with the practise of yoga. Do something for world peace in your own small way – get to a yoga class near you now.
Happy International Day of Yoga!