While the popularity of Yoga has risen exponentially in recent years, it is widely seen primarily as a way of keeping fit and many who practice it know next to nothing about its roots. Maybe you just do Yoga to help with your bad back or become more flexible and you’re not interested in “all that Om-ing business.” That’s totally your prerogative. But whether you actively acknowledge it or not, if you benefit from practicing Yoga, you owe a debt to India, because without this incredible and unique country there would be no Yoga. India is the birth place of Yoga, it originated there hundreds of thousands of years ago and was an integral part of millions of peoples lives centuries before Lulu Lemon and Sweaty Betty started flogging over priced Yoga leggings.
Even if you have no desire to learn more about India or explore the spiritual side of Yoga, or even if you have never done Yoga before, I challenge you to not be moved by the sheer scale of the catastrophe India now finds itself facing. There is not a single country in the world that has not suffered because of coronavirus but the latest outbreak in India is already leading to suffering on an unimaginable scale. I have visited India many times and lived there for most of 2018 with my family so it is like a second home to us. There is simply nowhere else like it. But for all its many wonders, the truth is that it simply doesn’t have the infrastructure in place to deal with the disaster it now finds itself facing.
There are some who would say that the millions poor people who live in India faced suffering every day even before this crisis so why is everyone suddenly expressing such concern now, having previously turned a blind eye? Last year alone half a million people there died of tuberculosis and three-quarters of a million from diarrhoea due to living in unsanitary conditions. These are shocking statistics and not to be dismissed, clearly there is a lot of work to be done to tackle these issues. But that doesn’t detract from the urgency of the current situation. Others may say it’s not the UK’s job to try and fix things there and others still actually deny that coronavirus is even a thing (!), but I’m going to assume that if you have got this far with my blog, you don’t fall in to either of those camps.
Nobody has been unaffected by the pandemic but as Damian Barr wryly observed: “We are not all in the same boat. We are all in the same storm. Some are on super-yachts. Some have just the one oar.” I would go further and say that right now there are people in India who are desperately paddling with one hand with the other tied behind their back, or at least that’s how it must seem.
Here in the UK we clapped the NHS week in, week out but the reality is that we mostly take it for granted because it’s always been there as a safety net in times of need. Imagine having to drive or even cycle to the hospital with a relative who can barely breathe just to be turned away because they had run out of Oxygen. So then you drive to another, and another and the same thing happen. Eventually your relative dies in out on the street and then you have to get them to the undertakers yourself or their body is simply burned on a makeshift funeral pyre in the streets. That’s the reality in India right now. I’m sorry that this may seem a bit graphic, but if it’s hard to read, how much harder would it be to actually live it?
The essence of Yogic philosophy is union or oneness. We are all connected, we all share the same planet and belong to the same human race. So whatever your political persuasion or beliefs, whether you love Yoga or even if you think it’s a total waste of time, please show India some love.
I will be teaching a Yin,Yang and Yoga Nidra workshop on Sunday 16th May in aid of Give India. If you can’t make it, please think about making a donation anyway or giving to one of the many other charities that is doing essential work there right now.
I might get accused of cultural appropriation for signing off with this, or perhaps I can get away with it being half Indian but I’m going to leave you with a, “Namaste,” or in other words:
“The light in me sees the light in you." Beautiful words from a beautiful country that has given us so much and now needs our help.