Surya Namskar in, clockwise from above, Houston, Washington, DC, and Fox Valley, Wisconsin
Thousands participate in nationwide Yogathon
The Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh USA concluded its fifth annual Health for
Humanity Yogathon January 30 with almost a million repetitions of the
Surya Namaskar, a series of yoga postures.
Despite the unusually chilly weather, the 10,071 participants in 225 cities
and towns in 40 states warmed themselves during this two-week Yogathon
with 984,481 repetitions of the yoga routine. Participating organizations
included 17 public schools, 25 universities, 14 yoga schools, and many temples.
The HSS launched the Health for Humanity Yogathon, also known as
Surya Namaskar Yajna, as an annual event in 2007 to create awareness
about yoga and the role it plays in encouraging overall health.
As a first-time participant put it, ‘The cost to participate in this Yogathon
is zero, but its health benefits are priceless!’
Shekhar Agrawal of the Patanjali Yogpeeth (USA) Trust, told Indian
Americans: ‘This country has given us wealth; let us all give it health.’
Stephen Knapp, president, Vedic Friends Association, said, ‘I certainly
notice a difference in my health, especially my energy and stamina. Plus, it
helps motivate me.’
Nikita Zamwar, an 11th grader, said her 80-year-old grandfather has been
doing Surya Namaskar and teaching yoga for long and is as fit as a young
man as a result. ‘This gave me the motivation to do Surya Namaskars to
ensure a good and healthy future,’ she said.
The mayors of Tampa, Florida; Milpitas, California; Cupertino,
California; and from Normal and Bloomington, Illinois, declared a Health
for Humanity Day and encouraged constituents to participate in local
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg integrated the Yogathon with a
Shape up New York program and urged city employees and residents to participate. Judge Ed Emmett of Harris County, Texas, the third-largest US
county, also declared January 29 as Health for Humanity Day.
Many children around age 10 performed more than 500 Surya
Namaskars. Srimitha Srinivasan, 11, from Reading, Massachusetts, performed a stunning 3,876 Surya Namaskars. Saraswati Rao, 66, completed
enough Surya Namaskars to gain the respect of younger participants.
Neurosurgeon Dr Kamaljit Singh Paul guided the Yogathon participants
at the Gurudwara of Fox Valley in Menasha, Wisconsin. He outlined the
benefits of Surya Namaskar, and said it helps keep internal organs healthy
and ensures proper blood circulation.
GLOW, the women’s health program at Valley Medical Center, Renton,
Washington, aims to make this a required daily exercise for its members.
Praveen Dhir, Yogathon national coordinator, HSS, said, ‘It is a real
achievement of this project that many participants continue this exercise
year round and spread the message to stay fit.’
‘Why spend money at the gym?’
KARUNA KANKANI AND NIKITA ZAMWAR
In Texas’s Fort Bend County, teens demonstrated the Surya Namaskar before a crowd of par-ticpitants during the national Yogathon.
“It is easier to do Surya Namaskars in a group rather than alone, especially for me,” said
Hejal Soni, a 10th grader at Clements High School in Sugar Land, Texas.
The teenagers also participated in a week-long Kishor (Teenager) Conference Call. Children
of different ages dialed in at 9 am to perform three sets of Surya Namaskars. Every day, putting aside their homework, around 12 of them came on the call to promote yoga and good
health among the youth. This idea was adapted last year from a West Coast effort.
‘I think it [Surya Namaskars] helped me relax and give me a break so that I could come
back with a clear mind to my work,’ said Swetha Ramamurthy, a caller.
Ayush Sharma, a ninth grader at Clements High School, did the Surya Namaskar every day
during the Yogathon. So did his family, albeit at different times of the day.
“My dad is an inspiration for me because he gets up at 4:30 am and does Surya Namaskars
every day. Doing at least three sets every day during the Yagna helped me get in a habit of performing Surya Namaskars daily like my dad,” Ayush said.
Ninth-grader Shiven Danayak does Surya Namaskars every week.
“I take on a lot of stress and Surya Namaskars are like stress relievers for me. They help me
stay calm,” he said. “Why spend money at the gym when you can stay fit and get extra benefits
at home with Surya Namaskars?”
Karuna Kankani is an eighth grader in Katy, Texas. Nikita Zamwar is a grade 11 student in
Fort Bend, Texas.