By Vrinda Saxena
In the latest move to promote Indian values and practices related to its culture, the Indian government has appointed yoga teachers in Indian missions overseas. These cultural diplomats, officially called ‘teachers of Indian culture’, will also deliver talks on history, philosophy, and traditions of Indian art and culture, in addition to holding yoga camps. Allied fields like naturopathy, pranik healing and Reiki will also be a part of the curriculum.
The first batch of 24 teachers has been sent to various diplomatic missions in Europe and Africa, as well as, New York, Chicago, and Washington DC. While 100 diplomatic missions are being targeted as part of the government scheme, teachers have also been sent to Budapest, Brussels, Seychelles, Jamaica, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and Bahrain.
Who are the ‘cultural diplomats’?
The chosen cultural diplomats hold Bachelor’s degrees and diplomas or certificates in yoga and have about five years of teaching experience in English. The teachers were chosen by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and judged on their knowledge of Indian history, art and culture.
Experts in various Indian classical dance forms such as Odissi, Bharatnatyam, and Kuchipudi have also been deputed to give lectures and demonstrations.
India and the history of yoga
Origins of yoga often date back to the Indus Valley Civilisation as evidenced by artefacts engraved with figures of yogis in yogic positions. However, the Vedas suggest the Vedic period as the origin of the practice.
While yoga does not adhere to any particular religion or community, the existence of lineages and guru-shishya (mentor-disciple) traditions have led to the development of different schools such as Jnana-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, Dhayna-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, Mantra-Yoga amongst several others.
Yoga Day and other similar efforts
In 2015, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had declared all yoga related business activities as exempted from taxes, so as to motivate individuals to partake in the practice. Additionally, the United Nations announced June 22 as Yoga Day in 2015.
Earlier this year at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s delegation offered yoga classes, in a move to build on India’s soft power. Two yoga teachers from India offered daily classes for heads of states, executives, celebrities and top bankers at the summit.
Yoga and India’s future
Yoga is popular across the world. However, Indian yoga trainers may have a hard time catching up with the ever-growing global demand for the practice. Reports published by the Yoga Alliance show a 76% percent rise in the number of people practising yoga in the US. Efforts to promote yoga and yogic teachers from India could also push Indian soft power.
Indian systems of medicine, including ancient Ayurveda, are once again regaining importance and may garner a larger audience due to these efforts. This could also boost tourism. Various locations across the country have the potential to be converted into functional spiritual and/or healing centres, and training centres for physical and mental well-being. Such efforts are likely to promote the overall development of a huge untapped industry and could spell tremendous potential for the country.
Feature Image Credit: Visual Hunt
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