HAVANA TIMES — On June 21, International Yoga Day was celebrated for the first time around the world. Yoga is an age-old system of thought that, through the school that has been most widely accepted and divulged in the West, Hatha Yoga, has demonstrated the effectiveness of exercises that work directly on the invisible and intangible structure of the human body.
When out of harmony, the body’s nadis or energy vortices, which cannot be detected by stethoscopes or scanners, express themselves in the form of disorders. That Western medicine has followed the exact opposite path in its inquiries and the solutions it has developed has thankfully not kept these techniques from spreading and becoming deeply rooted in different communities, despite the abysmally different culture they embody.
Cuba also took part in this extraordinary worldwide event, through television spots and a two-day gathering at the Abreu Fontan social club, in the neighborhood of Playa.
The ambassador of India attended the gathering and, following a simple speech, went from words to practice, participating in a Hatha class as another disciple.
The emotive address delivered by the Prime Minister of India, who thanked the international community for recognizing the value of Yoga, its objective benefits for physical health and mental peace (undeniable needs in a world torn apart by stress) was aired.
Eduardo Pimentel, chair of the Cuban Yoga Association, spoke about the origins of this school in Cuba and, though the prejudices that still exist (let alone the harassment that those who laid the foundations of these philosophies decades ago have been subjected to) were of course passed over in silence, this minimum of official acknowledgement is doubtless a great step forward.
As the Indian Prime Minister rightly said, Yoga belongs, not to India but to humanity as a whole. Spirituality is intrinsic to human beings, whether they are conscious of this or not, and the longing for a world of harmony and kindness throbs even beneath the maelstrom of materialism, competition and the frenetic pace of consumption and technology.
The only shortcoming of the event held in Cuba was that it failed to stress that there are numerous schools that have sprung from the classic ones, as well as a space where these, and those that have become rooted in our country, come together, such as Kriya Yoga (founded before 1959 by Paramahamsa Yogananda) and later initiatives, such as Iskcon, Siddha Yoga, Ananda Marga, Maha Rishi Mahesh, Ascension Ishay, Vrinda and Surat Shabd Yoga.
Despite the fact that eastern philosophies continue to be unjustifiably excluded from the philosophy syllabus at Western universities, now, thanks to the recently concluded book fair in Cuba (where India was the guest country) part of the ancient philosophical legacy contained in works such as the “Bhagavad Gita” or the “Ramayana” can still be accessed at Cuban bookstores.
It is also worthwhile to mention the volume India en el camino de los dioses (“India on the Path of the Gods”), by Maria del Carmen Solana Valdes, a serious and meticulous study that essays a first incursion into a land of undeniable mysticism.
Having participated in the celebrations of International Yoga Day, Cuba accepts and validates the search for individual peace whose result worldwide is the absence of stress, the absence of confrontation and the absence of wars. The alternative, applicable to all and under any circumstance, is summarized by an old Yoga maxim: one must first change in order to change the world.