MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka
AMUP Pant, an Indian living in Zambia, says yoga is not only a form of exercise but a traditional practice for him and many other Indians.Mr Pant, however, believes that yoga should be a form of exercise for everyone regardless of race, creed or religion.
“Like a sun does not have any region, yoga is fit for everyone. It is good for creating a better environment and a healthy people,” he says.
Mr Pant has been practising yoga since he was a child and can attest to the fact that the exercise brings a sense of balance as it refreshes the mind, body and soul through body and mind exercise.
Though he usually practices at home, Mr Pant has today joined the Indian community and many others who have come to commemorate the International Day of Yoga.
On December 11 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared the International Day of Yoga which is commemorated on June 21st every year.
This year’s international yoga day in Zambia was commemorated on June 23rd at the Indian High Commission under the theme ‘Peace’.
It day creates an opportunity for people to learn more about the practice and understand the importance of yoga.
According to the Indian tradition, yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, man and nature.
The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘YUJ’, meaning to join or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite.
It is a meditative means of discovering dysfunctional perception and cognition, as well as overcoming it for release from suffering, inner peace and salvation; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Yogasutras, in a number of Buddhist Mahayana works, as well as Jain texts.
It is believed that besides promoting a healthy lifestyle, yoga also helps prevent diseases and studies are ongoing to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease.
But many attest to its amazing effectiveness at rejuvenating the system. Alphonso Kapesa, who participated for the first time at this year’s international day of yoga says he felt refreshed and rejuvenated.
“I feel relieved and refreshed to participate at the international day of yoga. I have enjoyed myself and I will be doing yoga even at home, I have also learned that yoga is a relaxed form of exercise that can be done by any one regardless of age,” he says.
Mr Kapesa, a resident of Kalingalinga, expressed concern that people in Zambia do not take the issue of exercise seriously.
Another participant, Kasonde Kasonde, says yoga is more beneficial to the body because it involves a process of full package exercises.
“With yoga, you exercise the whole body and the mind, I feel refreshed after the session. I have been exercising for some time, I will also include yoga as part of my exercise now that I have learnt how it is done and its health benefits to the body,” Mr Kasonde said.
He observed that Zambia is grappling with Non Communicable Diseases (NDCs) because less than 50 percent of the population exercises.
Mr Kasonde says there is need for more people in Zambia to embrace yoga and other forms of exercise to promote wellness and a healthy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a televised address said yoga brings about oneness in the body, mind and soul.
“We need to embrace yoga to curb hypertension and other NDCs which have become silent killers. Practising yoga helps to break barriers of gender, race and creed,” Mr Modi said.
He said yoga relieves mental stress and fear through refreshing the mind, body and soul.
Mr Modi said yoga promotes a bond of oneness with society, family and the world at large.
“Yoga does not discriminate against any one, all you need is willingness to practise it.in a world of fear, yoga promises hope and courage,” he said.
And Indian High Commissioner Ngulkham Gangte commended the Zambian who have started practising yoga and said there is need for the Zambian government to formalise yoga as a form of exercise.
Mr Gangte says yoga as a form or exercise promotes unity among people of different races, religion and creed.
“We urge the government of Zambia to promote yoga as a form of exercise to promote a health population. Yoga provides a lot of health benefits to the body and the mind which are vital in human development,” he said.
Mr Gangte expressed happiness at the stance the Zambian government has taken in promoting wellness through the national health week.
He said the Indian government will continue promoting and practising yoga in Zambia to promote wellness and healthy lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Minister of health Permanent Secretary for technical services Jabbin Mulwanda said yoga provides a holistic approach that is valuable to health and well-being.
“Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, it is not just about exercise but a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. Yoga is more than physical exercise, it cultivates ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day to day life and endows skills in the performance of one’s action,” Dr Mulwanda said.
He said there is need for Zambians to embrace exercise as part of their culture.
“Being healthy is not just in body but the mind also, that’s what yoga promotes. Yoga is just another form of exercise which should be embraced to curb hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes,” Dr Mulwanda said.
MIKE MUGALA, Lusaka