It is 6 A.M. on a Thursday morning in a suburban town of Jodhpur, Rajasthan, northwestern India. I’m on stage about to demonstrate basic Hatha Yoga asanas, looking out at a sea of faces including young children, men, women, teens, retirees, disabled – people from many socio economic backgrounds, many traditions within Hinduism and Muslims. The birds stand quiet in anticipation. Even a crowd of neighborhood stray dogs have formed a cheering section beside the loud speaker. It blasts the morning bhagans, ushering students to the great, green carpet inside the Gau Seva (cow yard) a safe haven for the worshipped but homeless cows of Bopalgarh.
I can’t help but compare this successful turn out with duds in America from my past. To fill a 20 person yoga studio in upstate New York might take 3-4 more hours of marketing than the duration of the actual class. And even then it required last minute reminder phone calls and Facebook posts. In contrast, this Yoga Jagran (gathering) was preceded by some word of mouth marketing and a small sub-title on the local news channel. Day 1 there were 116 students. By day four there will be closer to 300 because of the promised, famous Fire Dance, which will be attended by thousands.
The students will multiply themselves through positive feedback from Dadi (grandma) and contagious enthusiasm between students as they rush off to school after the program each morning. Grandpa brings his grandchildren to be introduced to the health benefits of Surya Namaskar which he believes has kept him out of the hospital. A young married, college student comes because he heard yoga can push back his persistent pre-diabetic symptoms, fearful of joining the epidemic that is sweeping his country, and claimed his father. But mostly they come together just to all be in one place doing the same thing, for the same purpose.
We visited Sachia Mata temple in Osiyan a few weeks ago, a 2,500 year old temple dedicated to Goddess and her 9 manifestations on Earth. In the entry way an energy field enveloped me like a bear hug from my great grandma Gretta – no matter how I turned my head, her abundant bosom threatened to take my life. This sacred space was created by millions of visitors worshipping and expressing their thoughts and emotions in one common space. Indians know this, that coming together creates a healing, binding energy and they seek opportunities to experience it in their daily lives.
The aura floating over the crowd of students this morning is as stunning as the crescent moon suspended above their heads, and a star twinkling for each of them. The heavens are smiling down on us this morning as we begin the instruction with OM chanting. I instinctively want to thank them all for coming, but before I can, a tidal wave of gratitude floods the stage, a smile on the students’ contented faces, happy their message of gratitude was received.
Om Shanti and Prem