Yoga Day: A terrific, relaxing event, say foreign diplomats

New Delhi, June 21 (IANS) “How did I do?” asked US envoy Richard Verma smiling at the end of the International Yoga Day event on Rajpath, adding: “It was terrific, it was very relaxing.”

Verma was among over 200 members of the foreign diplomatic corps who joined the yoga event on Rajpath to mark the inaugural International Yoga Day (IYD).

Togged in a white T-shirt with the IYD emblem, given to official participants by AYUSH ministry, and black track pants, Verma was in the enclosure for members of the diplomatic corps and foreign guests.

Besides Verma, the other envoys spotted at the venue were ambassadors Deep Kumar Upadhyay of Nepal, Shaida Mohammad Abdali of Afghanistan, Idriss Raoua Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, a keen yoga enthusiast, and Algeria’s Hamza Yahia Cherif.

The US embassy had brought along some members while six personnel came from the Russian embassy including press attaché Tanya Kopylova. Two members of the Israeli embassy were present including spokesperson Ohad Horsandi.

There were also many foreign students studying in different universities in India.

US envoy Verma, who is of Indian origin, performed quite easily the 35 asanas of the Yoga protocol. Slimly built, Verma said he did not find even the somewhat difficult Sethubandasana, which requires bending backward, tough.

“It was terrific. I did not find the yoga tough. I managed easily. It was very enjoyable, very relaxing,” Verma told IANS.

Earlier, while waiting for the event to begin, Verma described the IYD event as “a wonderful event” which brought together so many people. “It is a fantastic tradition, so important for the mind and body, for peace and harmony. It is very popular in the US embassy.”

Afghan envoy Abdali, who topped up his yoga attire with a pair of smart shades, also went through the 35 asanas without any difficulty. “It was an excellent event,” Abdali told IANS.

“I will try to continue to do the yoga,” he said, adding that four members from the Afghan embassy also took part.

“I really liked it. We normally need to exercise. I don’t think there is any exercise better than yoga that keeps one fit and at the same time keeps us spiritually so strong. I will try to make it a regular feature,” the envoy told IANS.

Nepal’s Upadhyay said he had been practicing yoga for 10 years. He found no difficulty in doing the asanas. Upadhyay said yoga will help bring “shanti (peace) at home and in the universe”.

Algerian envoy Cherif, a sprightly soft-spoken gentleman, did the asanas easily.

He said he enjoyed the yoga very much. Earlier, he said that while he does not practice yoga, he feels everyone should do it for harmony and peace. “If yoga is taken to the world, there will be much-needed peace and harmony on our planet,” Cherif told IANS.

Ambassador Idriss of Burkina Faso had a large crowd of admiring members of the diplomatic corps around him.

The outgoing envoy has been practicing yoga for 27 long years and has founded yoga centres in his own country. Idriss said he found the 35 asanas simple as he is used to doing much more complicated asanas.

Another enthusiastic participant was Faeq H.H. Hamza, counselor from the Palestine embassy. He is not a yoga regular.

There were two German embassy personnel who do yoga regularly. “We enjoy yoga,” one of them said but declined to be named.

Israeli embassy spokesperson Horsandi told IANS that around 20,000 people would be performing yoga in Tel Aviv on Sunday to mark the occasion.

“Israelis love yoga. They love to go to India to do yoga,” he said.

Kopylova of the Russian embassy told IANS that the mission holds regular yoga sessions for the staff. “Yoga helps to relax the mind and body.”

From Rwanda, Joseph Kabakeza, the first counselor of the high commission, said he was a yoga enthusiast.

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