Rise of Yoga Culture in America
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during his address to UN General Assembly in September 2014, had asked world leaders to adopt an international Yoga day, saying “Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being.” On December 11, 2014, the 193-member UN general assembly adopted a resolution by consensus, proclaiming June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’. The resolution was introduced by India’s ambassador to UN and had 175 UN members, including five permanent members of the UN Security Council, as co-sponsors.
Smithsonian, on October 19, 2013 opened an exhibition, “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” featuring temple sculptures, devotional icons, manuscripts and court paintings created in India over the past 2,000 years. Several artifacts displayed in the exhibit were borrowed from 25 museums and private collections in India, Europe and the United States. Smithsonian also arranged guest teachers to teach yoga classes on Wednesdays and Sundays during the exhibit days. A symposium on yoga’s visual culture for scholars and enthusiasts was also organized. The exhibit was kept on view through Jan. 26, 2014, and then taken to the San Francisco Asian Art Museum for three months from Feburary 21, 2014 to May 25, 2014. The Cleveland Museum of Art had the exhibit from June 22, 2014 to September 7, 2014.
The White House has embraced Yoga as a worthy physical activity. The annual Easter Egg Roll is the largest public event held at the White House. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made ‘Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!’ as the theme for the April 1, 2014 event. They also included a ‘Yoga Garden’ on the Presidential lawn for children and their parents who attended the traditional Easter Egg Roll festivities and arranged a yoga session by professional instructors. The Obama family has turned the traditional event into an active family-oriented day, and included yoga since 2009 as part of the celebration.
For the last several years, yoga and meditation are becoming more acceptable in America. Americans have witnessed increase in yoga studios, meditation centers and vegetarian restaurants, all of which have roots in India. Several New Age gurus, who travel across the globe, have contributed to this popularity. In the United States, best-selling author Deepak Chopra has significantly contributed to Indian meditation philosophy and yoga going mainstream.