Yoga as Indian soft power

Author : Mykola Murskyj

Source : 112 Ukraine

The authorities do not hide the fact that popularity of Indian cinema, pop music, cuisine, and classical culture facilitates "the positive image of India"
18:35, 2 August 2016

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India, which wants to become one of the world's superpowers, seriously concerned about the idea of ​​strengthening the soft power. The authorities did not hide the fact that in the spread of "positive Indian image" they are counting on the popularity of Indian cinema, pop music, classical culture (for example, Indian dance), and even the cuisine. Yoga plays a special role in this strategy.

Lotus Pose is known throughout the world; people of different cultures massively learn yoga. You can see the advertisements to learn yoga almost everywhere. Numerous festival dedicated to this activity; recently 130 countries have celebrated the International Day of Yoga. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also performed a complex of exercises.

"I urge people everywhere to make yoga a part of their life, - said the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. - Yoga gives you health guarantees, without distinguishing between rich and poor." 

This ancient Indian practice has managed to become a fashion and a business, and now becomes a kind of politics in the West.

The first wave of “yoga fashion” has covered the world back in the 1960s and 1970s, during the hippie boom. The young people of Europe and the United States became interested in the East. They fled from Western materialism to the "Indian Heaven," searching for spirituality, mysticism, oriental mysteries, and Indian hemp.

Related: The New York Times names Ukrainian vyshyvanka  to be the main fashion trend in summer 2016

Pragmatic minds of Europe and the United States have re-interpreted the ancient Indian asanas and quickly turned it into a recreational gymnastics, which took place in parks, gyms, and stadiums.

In 1970s, the famous social anthropologist Agehananda Bharati defined this phenomenon with a special term: "pizza effect." A simple pizza with cheese and tomatoes appeared in the USA in the XIX century, with the Italian immigrants. It has got some new features on its new homeland and became a popular fast food. Metaphysics has become a business. The same thing happened to yoga.

According to Sports & Fitness Industry Association, 24 million people in the US practice yoga. This kind of gymnastics is almost as popular as golf. According to experts, the turnout of yoga is $ 27 billion. This includes tuition fees, cost of renting halls, proceeds from the attribute of production, rugs, clothes for classes, as well as the sale of books, video courses with exercises and so on.

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Now the Indians want to "return yoga home" and loudly remind about yoga’s homeland. Since the 1960s, the West has invented an incredible amount of different yogas, which are not typical for India.  And all their followers refer to some ancient knowledge. In 2010, experts specially designed Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL) reported about shooting asanas and describing in detail at least one and a half thousand postures. The main purpose of the action was to prevent the patenting of yoga abroad. Indians believed that yoga must be reserved, like Parmesan cheese or champagne in Europe.

Indian nationalistic Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his goal is to remind everyone about the achievements of Indian civilization, and give the world a simple and inexpensive recreation complex, proven for centuries. He proudly says that he gets up every day at five in the morning to do the asanas.

The authorities do not hide the fact that they are counting on the popularity of Indian cinema, pop music, cuisine, and classical culture (classical Indian dances, which are popular in Europe and America) in the spread of "positive image of India." Modi government even established a new post of Minister of yoga and Ayurveda.

Yoga is now practiced by the local police and military, sailors on warships, pilots and flight attendants of AirIndia. Minister of yoga Sripad Naik is planning to "completely withdraw yoga from the West" and make it an integral part of Indian life.

However, "to withdraw from the West" does not mean to abandon the Western students. On the contrary, India hopes that now the followers would massively go to India to learn the "real" yoga. Interior Ministry even promise to simplify the visa restrictions for those who wish to learn yoga.

In China, there is the growing number of yoga sections, and the Indians consider it a real confirmation of their soft power.

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