Houston to observe IYD 2021, focused on well-being amid pandemic

By Pooja Salhotra 

Although India’s second spike of Covid-19 has been dominating news headlines, it is the country’s ancient mind-body practice of yoga that is top of mind for some.

Health and wellness experts around the world are gearing up to observe the seventh annual International Yoga Day (IYD), recognized by a United Nations resolution co-sponsored by a record 177 nations. The celebration comes at a time that anxiety and psychological suffering are soaring. In the US, more than 42 percent of people surveyed by the US Census Bureau in December reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from 11 percent the previous year. Physical isolation and fear of the Covid-19 infection are thought to have contributed to these numbers, and yoga and meditation have emerged as possible panaceas. 

“A lot of people misunderstand yoga as a physical exercise, but yoga is for peace, harmony, wellness and health,” said Vipin Kumar, executive director of India House, one of the event sponsors. “That is what we are celebrating.” 

The UN has appropriately chosen “Yoga for well-being” as this year’s event theme, focusing on the role the practice can play in fighting social isolation and depression. In Houston, the city’s Consulate General of India in partnership with a number of organizations is marking the occasion with outdoor events on Sunday, June 20 and on Monday, June 21, both free and open to the public.  

Sunday’s IYD event takes place at Buffalo Bayou Park while Monday’s, which will also be livestreamed, is outdoors at India House. Both events take place from 6-8 p.m. and will include booths with food vendors and ayurvedic related organizations as well as a formal presentation with an address by the Consulate General of India, Houston. Top yoga teachers from Houston, including Shekhar Agarwal, Vishwarupa NanjundappaNancy MartchRobert BoustanyMark Ram and Saumil Manek will both perform complicated poses and lead the public in a standard 55-minute yoga practice. 

This year’s event also includes a specific focus on galvanizing youth. Hindus of Greater Houston and Young Hindus of Greater Houston are encouraging youth to submit pictures of Yogasana along with a personalized message about what yoga means to them. Judges will then select certain submissions to be published in prominent local newspapers. 

In addition to the events taking place in Houston, the Woodlands is hosting its own virtual event on Saturday, June 19. That event will focus on how yoga can help boost immunity. Dr. Neeta Shukla, an anesthesiologist and a yoga teacher who has helped spearhead the IYD events in the Woodlands for the past five years, said yoga works at the cellular level to assist with immunity. 

“Yoga has the master key to unlock your inner potential and your inner energy,” said Dr. Shukla. “It is the best preventive medicine for individual health, happiness and to lead a disease-free life.” 

For more information about upcoming IYD events in Texas, visit yogadayoftexas.org

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