The venue was expected - a five-star hotel in Mumbai but the agenda - a 90-minute Yoga session organised by industry body CII on the ocassion of International Yoga Day - was not.
The session at the St. Regis, Mumbai was a study in contrasts. An air-conditioned, carpeted and chandeliered ballroom hosting a sombre yoga session.
Top executives from companies in shapeless track pants and T-shirts instead of the usual jackets and ties.
And silence instead of the general hum of conversation.
Most executives present admittedly had practiced yoga or were active practioners but whether they would do it in the present environs was not clear.
Perhaps a diktat from the Government pushed them into it.
CII's Maharashtra Chairman, Sunil Khanna made it a point to be present for the entire duration of the session which started at sharp 0730.
I was urged to participate but lack of sleep and a body used to sleeping at 2am was not interested in even the mildest form of exercises – but that is not to say that I wasn’t tempted. As a video projection by the Sadhguru’s Isha Foundation guided the participants through the various upa-yoga exercises, I realised that my current lifestyle had begin to hurt my body and Yoga could be the key to reclaiming it.
For the uninitiated, upa-yoga, according to Sadhguru are exercises which are oriented towards physical and psychological benefits and do not include connecting the third dimension – the spiritual.
Most exercises in the video were to help with the aches and pains of those who live a sedentary life (us). Neck exercises to relieve stress as well as correct the posture that spends hours in front of a laptop, and back exercises to relieve muscles that have atrophied sitting in a chair. (I digress but an average working man spends 90 % of the day sitting – home, auto, train, taxi, office and back). And most notably, breathing exercises that can be done sitting anywhere to relax the body.
I walked upto Sunil Khanna at the end of the session, and he explained that his fitness was a testimony to the benefits of practicing Yoga. “I have been doing Yoga exercises for more than 12 years now. I experimented with it as I was diagnosed with high-blood pressure and was put on medication. After six months, I was off medication and embraced Yoga.”
On another note, the UN recognition of June 21 as International Yoga Day in 2015 was a huge coup for India. This year too, images were projected onto the UN building of various asanas and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev was invited to speak on the history of the science of Yoga. Isha Foundation had also scheduled programmes across India in partnership with various schools to teach Yoga to children.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi - this year too - was photographed doing complicated Yoga exercises with ease. His expertise exhibited a lifetime spent doing yoga daily.
On being asked why CII had got behind the government’s push to promote Yoga, Sunil Khanna said, “I am one of those who believes that Yoga exercises should be made compulsory in every school. It needs to become a habit. Thanks to our prime minister’s focus on Yoga, there is increased awareness about it and a lot of people are taking it up. But at the end it depends upon the people to make it a habit and not observe it for just a day,” he concluded.