Suparna Mitra (Kolkata, West Bengal), Aanchal Tekriwal (Mahagama, Jharkhand), Monisha Mondal (Greater Noida West, Uttar Pradesh)
Yoga is like music: the rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and harmony of the soul that create the symphony of life.
The origin of Yoga lies in ancient India. It’s a Sanskrit word, which means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of a person’s body and consciousness. Yoga has long been recognized as India’s gift to the global culture of wellness and got its universal appeal on 11th December 2014. The United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga. The year 2021 marks the 7th Annual International Yoga Day where several activities and events took place in both India and South Korea thereby uniting both the cultures together. Let’s see how this day was celebrated in India and South Korea this year.
The Tradition of Celebrating Yoga Day in India
The international community observes June 21 as International Yoga Day, recognizing the many benefits of the ancient Indian practices of yoga. The official UN recognition came after a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The first Yoga Day celebrations were held in 2015 at Rajpath in New Delhi, and Prime Minister along with other dignitaries had created two Guinness World Records. One is for arranging the world’s largest yoga session with 35,985 participants and another for the most number (84) of nationalities being part of it. According to a famous practitioner BKS Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”
In its ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ from 2019, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) lists Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna, Samādhi, Bandhās, Mudrās, Ṣaṭkarmas, Yuktāhāra, Mantra-japa, and Yukta-karma as popular yoga ‘sadhanas’.
The AYUSH protocol describes the folding hands logo of Yoga Day as reflecting “the union of individual consciousness with that of universal consciousness, a perfect harmony between mind and body, man and nature, the holistic approach to health and well-being. The brown leaves in the logo symbolize the earth element, the green leaves of nature; blue the fire element while the sun symbolizes the source of energy and inspiration.”
Yoga Celebration in South Korea
In South Korea around 1200 people performed yoga at the Gwanghwamun Plaza on the first-ever International Yoga Day, in 2015. To commemorate the 7th International Yoga Day, South Korea kick-started the celebrations by organizing a yoga session at the Namsan Seoul Tower last week.
Several Yoga events were held for children and youth in different schools in Seoul along with Wongwang Digital University, Seoul Campus on 19th June and Busan University of Foreign Studies on 21st June. A special cultural performance was also held in Seoul on 21st June in collaboration with Gangdong-gu office and Korea Yoga Association. The cultural center has also partnered with Gimhae City administration for a yoga demonstration on 25th June. On this occasion, H.E. Sripriya Ranganathan, Ambassador of India focused on the ancient tradition and importance of yoga in wellness that encompasses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
The theme of the International Yoga Day this year is “Yoga for wellness”, a motto aligned to current pre-occupations. During the challenging times of global pandemic and restrictions on social gathering, the Cultural Center organized these events in various cities across Korea with local partners by following all the necessary protocols and guidelines. These series of yoga sessions will provide participants a unique opportunity to perceive various facets of India’s age-old approach to well- being.
India and South Korea have many similarities since ancient times and share a long history of cultural past. The spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia formed a direct connection between India and Korea. Both countries share similar values and beliefs. Cultural ties between the two nations have been institutionalized through the foundation of the Indian Cultural Center in Seoul (2011) and Busan (2013), where regular coaching for Yoga, Indian dance, and Hindi language is imparted.
The Korean Cultural and Information Centre in Kolkata opened in 2002, and the Indo-Korean Cultural and Information Centre in Chennai were opened in 2006. Now, there are many such institutes in other states of India too. Yoga gained more popularity, since, as per this trend general people; especially the young generation is looking for new forms of healing such as meditation and spirituality.
The different types of discipline like Classical yoga asana, Vikram yoga, Hatha yoga, and aquatic yoga have found their way into people’s lives. In Korea, Yoga classes are being arranged in almost all conventional and unconventional places such as swimming pools, luxury hotels, art galleries, aquariums, and Hanoks (traditional Korean buildings). As per many published research results, Yoga is beneficial for maintaining a physical, mental, and social behaviour level for students. Many people believe that through regular yoga practice, the concentration and ability to manage stress improves.
South Korean people are showing more interest in Yoga now, just like how K-pop and K-culture is growing deep in India. We hope this relationship between South Korea and India will become stronger and prominent in future and ‘Yoga’ will be one of such mediums to unite both the countries. Watch this video to know more about Yoga Day celebrations around the world:
We hope this article added to your learning about India’s soft power that is the spread of Yoga across the world and how it is strengthening the cultural ties with South Korea. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.