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Padma Shri winner Wai Lana revolutionising yoga in USA

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Himani Kumar Sanagaram

Her  colorful “ Haku Fresh Flower Head Lei” or Hawaiian  crown of flowers is what sets her apart from the rest of the pack. Recent Padma Shri winner Wai Lana is a woman of Chinese origin woman, who introduced Yoga to China and has made it mainstream in the United States.

Showing off her Hawaiian origin, this daughter of Chinese immigrants in the US has achieved great heights by her sheer hard work and is conspicuous in her colorful clothing and yogic postures be it TV, DVD, or YouTube videos. Wai Lana is only one of two Chinese nationals to win the prestigious Padma award in its 62-year history.

“I’m very humbled and don’t feel deserving. I’ve just been trying my best to share the gift of yoga with the Chinese people and the rest of the world. My real reward is seeing so many people experiencing the many benefits that yoga has to offer,” Wai Lana said of the award in a press release

Yoga has been popular in America  for many years and was first introduced in United States by Swami Vivekanada, who came to the country in  1893 to attend the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Later it was made popular by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, Yogi Bhajan etc.

Wai Lana, whose actual name is Zhang Huilan in Chinese  credits the Chinese leadership to her successful Yoga TV programs in China.

“Chinese leaders understood the value of yoga long before it became popular in the United States,” Wai Lana said.

“Mother of Yoga” as she is called has been broadcasting  the Yoga TV series “Wai Lana Yoga”  for over 17 years ago on PBS in the United States. She has inspired many American and Chinese youth to take up Yoga. Her videos are mostly shot in natural locations- by the sea or trees in a forest.

Her popular song “Namaste” has been well received and the video was releases worldwide on the International Day of Yoga on June 21 last year, when it was celebrated for the first time.  International Yoga Day was internationally recognized by the United Nations General Assembly on Dec. 11, 2014. In the song, her sweet melancholy voice captures the peace and joy that yoga gives as she joins people all over the world from Poland, Hawaii, India, Canada etc. to unite in peace and practice Yoga.

At a time, when even many young Indians both in India and United States are renouncing their culture and religious practices, for western culture, Wai Lana bridges the gap between the east and the west

Her hard work is endearing as can be seen in videos. She is truly a modern yogi and one can hardly doubt if she is of Chinese origin. Her programs started airing on CCTV in China in 1985 and in America in 1998 and then in many other countries.

Wai Lana has also worked on a “Little Yogis” DVD for kids and has launched various healthy food products and yoga gear related to Ayurvedic cures. Her website sells various healthy products related to yoga and shares information on meditation, lifestyle, yoga sound meditation techniques and recipes. She has really spread the art of Yoga to United States and China as well as other countries.

Himani Kumar Sanagaram is freelance journalist based in Chicago. She covered Headley’s trial from Chicago from 2010-2012. She is also a former foreign correspondent with Press Trust of India.

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Bollywood Celebs Shares Their Views: International Yoga Day

Here's what the celebrities had to say

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Bollywood Celebs Shares Their Views: International Yoga Day
Bollywood Celebs Shares Their Views: International Yoga Day, Flickr

From veterans like Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini to mothers Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Soha Ali Khan — Bollywood celebrities, for whom fitness is a way of life — posted yoga poses and spoke about its benefits on the occasion of International Yoga Day on Thursday.

While Amitabh Bachchan shared an old image of himself performing a yogasana on Twitter, Hema took the opportunity to thank Prime Minister Narendra Modi for spreading awareness about it “not only in India but in all the countries he has visited in the world”.

Here’s what the celebrities had to say:

Amitabh Bachchan: Greetings… but the attire for yoga is not ideal, that was a still from the Gujarat Tourism campaign.

Amitabh Bacchan
Amitabh Bacchan, flickr

Hema Malini: Today is International Yoga Day — a celebration of the world wide interest in our own yogasanas. Thanks to our PM who has spread awareness not only in India but in all the countries he hs visited in the world! I request all of you to spend a little time on your bodies to keep fit. I do!

Shilpa Shetty: Pranayama: Prana means life (no life without breath), Ayama means practice or control. So, when you practice control over breath you will have control over your life and mind. It not only cleanses 72000 nadis or channels, your mind and blood, but that cleansing process translates into energy..

Shakti. This power helps you positively manifest your Aura, relationships, self awareness and goals. This International Yoga day start with Pranayama. Welcome the new you. Inhale the future, exhale the past. Enjoy the present. A big thank you to Narendra Modiji who leads and inspires by example and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore for keeping the momentum going so passionately ‘hum fit toh India fit’.

Sandhya Mridul: Smile. Everyday. Best asana of all! Happy Yoga Day people.

Rajeev Khandelwal: The world follows it… we created it.. let’s own it!

Milind Soman: My contribution to the 1,00,000 Suryanamaskaaras that the people at Be Cure Fit are targeting today on International Yoga Day. I feel stronger and more flexible with yoga and it’s never too late to start.

Soha Ali Khan
Soha Ali Khan, flickr

Soha Ali Khan: Why I’ll always pick yoga over the latest fitness fad.

Nimrat Kaur: Place we shall ever have to live in. Keep it safe and beaming! Way of life. Born again.

Also read: Yoga a Boon for Breast Cancer Survivors

Mugdha Veira Godse: Union of body and mind! Happy International Yoga Day. Today is the day to start a brand new fitness routine. (IANS)