International Yoga Day: No “Om” Required

Good news, campers. Chanting “Om” will not be compulsory in India on International Yoga Day. In a world that often insists that, “because I do it this way, so should you,” it was a heart-warming relief to see Indian officials of the event step back from the “Om” and other Vedic chanting in order to make Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists and others more comfortable participating in the healthful corporate practice of yoga on International Yoga Day.

But we should already get that, shouldn’t we? There is no “right way” to do yoga and the idea that one style should be imposed for an event or celebration is contrary to the principles yoga espouses. That’s why poses can be modified – so they fit the practitioner, not the other way around.

It feels like India dodged a yogic bullet. Participation in International Yoga Day is a great idea, not just for India, but everyone. But the politicization of the practice shouldn’t get in the way of the benefits and enjoyment. That happens too often in the West where misguided concerns of cultural appropriation inhibit the free practice of yoga. Yoga was shared intentionally, not to make people conform to it or to a particular interpretation, but so they could enjoy the resulting strength, flexibility, and peace of mind that come with the practice.

Way to open the doors, India. Hopefully the second year of International Yoga Day will welcome even more participants than its inaugural event. Thanks for inviting us all to the party.