Thursday December 14, 2017

For the First Time, Indian Embassy in Cairo organises Yoga Championship in Egypt

Yoga not as exercise but as an art form is reaching millions from East to West and now to East again

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Yoga Championship in Cairo. Image source: Indian Embassy, Cairo
  • The First Yoga Championship in Cairo was held on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan on June 5
  • The youngest Yoga practitioner at the Championship was six years old, and the oldest was 71 years old
  • The Yoga Schools teach different types of Yoga, especially hatha yoga and meditation
In the run-up to the International Day of Yoga, the Embassy of India and the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture played host to a first of its kind Yoga Championship in Cairo on June 5, 2016. The event took place against the backdrop of the Nile in the lush green lawns of the Embassy.
The Yoga Championship was a landmark event in an Arab country and saw the participation of more than 35 highly proficient Egyptian and foreign Yoga enthusiasts. The youngest Yoga practitioner at the Championship was six years old, and the oldest was 71 years old. The participants were divided into four categories — under 18 years, 18-30 years, 30-45 years and above 45 years. Each contestant performed ten basic and five advanced asanas to the tune of Indian music and chanting and loud cheers from the audiences.
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India’s Ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya and Second Secretary (Culture) & Acting Director, Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture Rakesh Kawra. Image source: Indian Embassy, Cairo

Speaking on the occasion, Ambassador Sanjay Bhattacharyya welcomed the growing number of Yoga practitioners in Egypt and said, “The essence of Yoga is to start from the level of one’s capacities and to strive continuously for higher levels of accomplishment.”

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The First Yoga Championship in Cairo was held on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan. Dr Prabhakar Medhikar, one of the three jury members of Yoga Championship said, “The successful conduct of the event on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan is a proof of the appreciation, acceptance and adoption of the Indian way of living a natural and healthy life of universal love, peace and harmony.”

Another jury member Ms Amira Fahmy extolled the virtues of Yoga. She said, “The First Yoga Championship is making history in Egypt. There is a tremendous potential for organising this Championship in future. The Yoga Sessions could be organised in schools as well. It will help schoolchildren become responsible humans.” Dr Bharat Singh was the third jury member.

Yashmine Hashem, one of the participants, said, “It was a beautiful day, and all of us had fun. Winning or losing was not the idea. The biggest takeaway for us was allowing others to inspire us to do our best.”

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A participant. Image source: Indian Embassy, Cairo
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Although the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture had started the formal teaching of Yoga way back in the Nineties, the growing popularity of Yoga could be credited to the first International Day of Yoga held in the Egyptian Capital last year. The number of Yoga Schools has grown three-fold in Cairo and today there are around 40 such centres.
The Yoga Schools teach different types of Yoga, especially hatha yoga and meditation, and maintain close contacts with Dr Bharat Singh, who has been providing Yoga lessons to more than 170 students in each term. They also form a bridge between Egypt and India and many of the Yoga students visit India for advanced lessons.  Recently, two Yoga teachers were sent to New Delhi for advanced training under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC).
A yoga pose with a background of the event
A yoga pose with a background of the event. Image source: Indian Embassy, Cairo
The Embassy of India is also conducting the ‘Yoga in Egypt’ Photography Contest. It is open for all Egyptians nationals, and resident non-Egyptians as well. A maximum of two entries per person is allowed, and the deadline for receiving the entries is June 12, 2016.
The 10 best-selected photographs will then qualify for a Facebook competition. The best three entries will be judged on the basis of the number of ‘Likes’ which will have 50% weightage, and remaining weightage will be for the score given by an independent jury.
The best three entries and the winners of the First Yoga Championship will be awarded medals, certificates and prizes on the International Day of Yoga at the Al-Azhar Park. Given the growing popularity of yoga in Egypt, preparations are underway to host the International Day of Yoga 2016 events in Alexandria and Ismailia as well.
– by Shillpi A Singh, a freelance contributor at NewsGram. She may be reached at: shilpi.devsingh@gmail.com 

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is a really good initiative taken. People should be informed about the advantages of yoga as it is the best way to heal and detox our bodies

  • devika todi

    such initiatives should be encouraged.

  • Dhiraj Kumar Pandey

    booming yoga training, that India want a piece of the pie http://www.yogabhawnamission dot com/Extensive-Yoga-Teachers-Training-Program-Be-a-Yogi-02-Months.html

  • Vrushali Mahajan

    This is a really good initiative taken. People should be informed about the advantages of yoga as it is the best way to heal and detox our bodies

  • devika todi

    such initiatives should be encouraged.

  • Dhiraj Kumar Pandey

    booming yoga training, that India want a piece of the pie http://www.yogabhawnamission dot com/Extensive-Yoga-Teachers-Training-Program-Be-a-Yogi-02-Months.html

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Indulge in Yoga for a healthy and a good respiratory system

This article gives information on Yoga which is a very beneficial hack for having a good respiratory system

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Yoga good for healthy and respiratory body.
Yoga good for healthy and respiratory body. IANS
  • Akshar explains the benefits of Yoga
  • Yoga being the ultimatum for a good respiratory system

-by Akshar

Smog, the choking threat which has landed the national capital in a pollution emergency, has been the cause of many respiratory problems in children and adults. When your daily commute feels like living on the edge, what are your other outdoor activities supposed to feel like?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it is dangerous to breathe when there is too much smog. Smog contains ozone particles, and elevated ozone levels can have a variety of negative effects on your lungs.

While it is advised to stay indoors when the air is toxic outside, a more practical solution would be to establish a habit of cleansing your respiratory organs through Yoga.

If Yoga has been shown to improve the quality of life of lung cancer patients, it could definitely do wonders against other respiratory issues. Here are a few asanas you could try to give you relief from chest congestion, respiratory flues and discomfort in breathing.

* Pranayama: This has proved beneficial for those suffering with bronchitis or lung congestion.

How to do it:

1. While performing pranayama one should make sure that his or her back is straight and should concentrate on the breathing.

2. Sahaj Pranayama, which is also called easy breathing, involves breathing a few times deeply.

3. Inhale through the nostrils for five counts and hold the breath for 10 counts.

4. Exhale through the mouth for 10 counts; this has to be repeated 10-12 times.

* Adho Mukha Svanasana: This posture strengthens the chest muscles and expands the lung region, increasing its capacity.

How to do it:

1. From table top position, tuck your toes, straighten your legs and lift your hips towards the ceiling.

2. Adjust your hands forward a bit, if necessary, and spread your fingers.

3. Keep your spine long, and your head and neck in line with your spine. Hold for one minute.

* Bhujangasana: This asana opens up the heart and lungs and gives them a good stretch.

How to do it:

1. Lie on your stomach; engage your back muscles in lifting your head and upper torso.

2. Align your elbows underneath your shoulders for support.

3. Open your chest and relax your shoulders away from your ears.

4. Look straight ahead and hold for one minute.

* Sukhasana: This heavy breathing seated position relieves yourself from stress, anxiety and exhaustion.

How to do it:

1. Sit erect, with the feet stretched out towards the front.

2. Now cross the legs in such a way that the knees are wide, shins are crossed, and each foot is placed under the knee. Knees must be bent, and legs should be tucked into the torso.

3. Feet must be relaxed, and the outer edges must rest on the floor while the inner edges must arch on the shins. Look down on your legs, must see a triangle formed by shins that are crossed and both the thighs.

4. Back must be balanced in such a way that the tailbone and the pubic bone are at equal distance from the floor.

5. Place the palms stacked up in your lap. Or you can also lay them on the knees palms up or palms down.

6. Elongate the tailbone, and firm up the shoulders. But make sure the lower back is not arched in such a way that it pokes the lower ribs forward.

* Marjari Asana: This involves deep breathing, which in turn expands the lungs and boosts blood circulation.

How to do it:

1. Begin with Adhomukhi Swanasana

2. Lean forward and place your knees down on your mat

3. Inhale, look up and relax

4. Inhale as you drop your knees

5. While navigating back, shift the body weight from the knees to palms and feet.

(Akshar is founder and course director of Bengaluru’s Akshar Yog. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at akshar@aksharyoga.com) (IANS)

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Bhai Boolchand-the Indian who launched trade with Ghana

The first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast (Ghana's colonial name) in 1890 , Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana

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Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana.
Ghanian flag, Bhai Boolchand launched trade in India with Ghana. pixelbay
  • Bhai Boolchand, the anonymous Indian, is credited with starting trade between Ghana and India
  • The year was 1890.

Not much is known about him, but it has now emerged that trade relations between Ghana and Indiawere started by Bhai Boolchand, the first Indian to arrive in the Gold Coast — Ghana’s colonial name — in 1890. That’s some 67 years before the British colonial government granted the country independence, research by the Indian Association of Ghana has found.

“As far as our records show, Bhai Boolchand (of the Bhaiband Sindhworki trading community), landed on the shores of the Gold Coast in western Africa in 1890. Nearly twenty years later, in 1919, the first Sindhi company was established by two brothers — Tarachand Jasoomal Daswani and Metharam Jasoomal Daswani,” the Indian Association said.

The duo opened a store — Metharam Jassomal Brothers — in the then capital city of Cape Coast in 1919.

“Their business flourished and branches were opened in Accra and Kumasi. A few years later, the two brothers separated and whilst Bhai Metharam Jasoomal continued the business as Metharam Brothers, Tarachand Jasoomal operated his business as Bombay Bazaar. These were the first two Indian companies that were established in the Gold Coast,” the Association said.

Boolchand’s arrival, therefore, pre-dates the historical links between the two countries that were always thought to have started between Ghana’s first President, Kwame Nkruman, and India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Boolchand can thus be described as the one who paved the way for the arrival of other members of the Sindhi community, initially as traders and shopkeepers.

The Indian Association said more of this group arrived in the 1950s and 1960s, with a few venturing into manufacturing industries such as garments, plastics, textiles, insecticides, electronics, pharmaceuticals and optical goods.

The Association said two more Indian firms were established under the names of Lilaram Thanwardas and Mahtani Brothers in the 1920s. This trend continued in the 1930s and 1940s with the creation of several more Indian companies like T. Chandirams, Punjabi Brothers, Wassiamal Brothers, Hariram Brothers, K. Chellaram & Sons, G. Motiram, D.P. Motwani, G. Dayaram, V. Lokumal, and Glamour Stores.

Glamour Stores, which was stared by Ramchand Khubchandani who arrived in Ghana in 1929, has grown — after changing its name to Melcom Group — to become the largest retailing business in the country. The Melcom Group, headed by Ramchand’s son Bhagwan Khubchandani, is now in its 60th year and about 40 stores all over the country.

Ramchand and his brother later went into garment manufacturing in 1955 and once employed over 1,200 Ghanaians. They later opened the first Indian restaurant, Maharaja, in Ghana. Bhagwan followed in his father’s footsteps and in 1989 established the Melcom Group with his sons-in-law, Mahesh Melwani and Ramesh Sadhwani.

Another Indian-owned company that has survived through the years is the Mohanani Group, which is currently in its 51st year. At the first-ever Ghana Expatriate Business Awards, the Ministry of Trade and Industries recognised the work of one of the thriving Indian-owned B5 Plus Steel Company and awarded it the Best Expatriate Company in the metal and steel category.

As these companies brought in new expatriate staff, some left their employers to venture out on their own — resulting in more companies opening up.

“After 1947, the Gold Coast attracted the attention of some Indian multinational companies, and big names like Chanrai, Bhojsons, K.A.J. Chotirmal, Dalamals and A.D. Gulab opened branches in Ghana,” the Association said.

“The employment of Ghanaians by these founding companies also helped to lessen the burden of unemployment in the country. This amply demonstrates the level of commitment India has in the developmental agenda of Ghana,” it said.

Indians are not only investing in the manufacturing and commercial sectors of the country; they are also investing in the financial sector. Bank of Baroda, one of India’s biggest and most reputable banks, recently established a branch in Ghana and hopefully it will expand its operations in other parts of the country very soon. (IANS)

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Beatles, Apple, Facebook knew India more than Indians

Famous non-Indian celebrities know more about India and its past

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The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture.
The Beatles once visited India to know more bout its past and culture. Wikipedia

-By Salil Gewali

Facebook’s Chairman Mark Zuckerberg had dropped a bombshell on the “secularists” in India during PM Modi’s visit to his campus in California. It’s all about the Facebook connection with India. Initially, it was never a bed of roses for what is now a household name “FACEBOOK” across the world. This world-famous ‘social networking service company’ had its own share of bad times. Revealing for the first time in the meeting at the Facebook office upbeat Zuckerberg told PM Narendra Modi that Steve Jobs, the founder Chairman of Apple, had advised him to visit a certain temple in India for blessings. The revelation may have caused heartburn to many. More so in India where so-called secular and snooty folks have long acquired a proclivity to look down upon their own culture, religion, and values while being appreciative of any bizarre customs and styles of the West. Yes, heeding the advice of his mentor Steve Jobs the depressed Mark had visited the temple and toured around India for nearly a month.

Facebook's CEO tells about India.
Facebook’s CEO tells about India. wikipedia

Well, the American techno-wizard Steve Jobs had himself spent over six months in India in 1974. He was here in quest of the higher meaning of life and spiritual solace. As understood, from early age Steve was quite haunted by a good deal of unanswered questions. Of course, his encounter with a book “Be Here Now” by Richard Alpert, a Harvard Professor, had opened up a gateway to the spiritualism of the East. This book had also introduced him to a mystic Yogi ‘Neem Karoli Baba’. That later inspired Steve to set out the journey for the East. As soon as Steve and his friend Daniel Kottke arrived India they directly went to meet the Guru in Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital. But to their disappointment, they found the Baba had already passed away some months earlier. Nevertheless, the urge to dive deeper into the spiritualism did not die away. They shaved their heads and put on Indian clothes and undertook an extensive meditation and yogic practices.

The most significant impact that had made upon Steve’s life was a book “Autobiography of a Yogi”by Paramhansa Yogananda. It is on record that he would read this book too frequently, at least once every year until his death, 2011. This book had given him the practical insight into what exactly this world is about and how a layman can prepare himself to realize the Supreme knowledge. The first-hand account of a Yogi with empirical approaches to know oneself this book by Yogananda is a smash hit manual now among the seekers of the Eastern spiritualism.

Yes, by dint of hard work, intuition and innovation Steve stood out as one of the most successful techno-tycoons of the modern times. As much known, Jobs was hardly possessed by the luxury of riches and materialistic vanity. He just regarded his entrepreneurship as a tool to awaken his dormant potentialities. The chairman of Salesforce.com and famous philanthropist Marc Benioff says with conviction — “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’.” It is this book which Steve’s family had given to all the guests as a last gift at his memorial service.

Here we can’t afford to ignore the Beatle’s fascination for INDIA as well. The band members that were basking in the opulence of materialistic riches and glory visited India (Rishikesh) in search of inner peace. They met with Sri Maharshi Mahesh Yogi and learnt from him Transcendental meditation (TM) who laid bare methods to feel true bliss within. Sri Maharshi is a big name in the West having a huge following that includes celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, David Lynch, Russell Brand, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Aniston, Modern physicist Dr. John Hagelin, to name a few. The Beatle’s Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr often assist a Hollywood Director/actor David Lynch to organize the Transcendental meditation under ‘David Lynch Foundation’ across USA and the European countries. George Harrison later took refuge in Bhakti Yoga. The founder of ISKCON Srila Prabhupada showed him the pathway to the Supreme Consciousness.

What basically pulls the rational westerners to India is less known to Indians themselves. It’s shamefully paradoxical. From early 19th Century, the philosophical literary treasure troves and Yoga of India found more admirers in the foreign lands than at home. Indeed, the philosophy of the “laws of karma” and the presence of all-power-divinity within every being and everywhere — which any human being can realize irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality, and color, has intensely stirred the greatest of the great minds of the West. The ancient texts hold out a whole bunch of keys to unlock oneself and know his/her relationship with the Supreme Being which in fact seems very reasonable to the West. Further, the complex studies of world-view by Modern scientists are gradually arriving at the same conclusion what the ancient sages of India expounded over five thousands year back that ‘creation and creator are ONE’. Interconnection, inter-relation and interdependence among every individual particle/object, living or non-living, in the infinite universe — which is the fundamental tenets of the Eastern philosophy, provided a new light of wisdom to the the modern physicists like Schrödinger, Heisenberg, Julius Oppenheimer, Brain David Josephson, David Bohm, John Stewart Bell et al.

Well, Indian’s contribution to the western academia is immeasurable — though deliberately undermined or less discussed in India itself. It’s very worthwhile to recall a famous proclamation by our western master whom we hold in the highest esteem. TS Eliot, one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, asserts: “Indian philosophers’ subtleties make most of the great European philosophers look like schoolboys”.

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.