In the spirit of President Obama’s United We Serve initiative and the President’s Active Lifestyle Challenge, Hindu American Seva Charities (HASC) led the first nationwide Yogathon on Sunday, August 29, 2010 at temples, ashrams, and spiritual centers. HASC, along with many volunteers, mobilized the Hindu faith based organizations to respond to the President’s call-to-service. As part of United We Serve: Let's Read. Let's Move. SEVA Charities have used yoga as a tool to promote physical activity, healthy living and peace of mind.
More than 100 sites – temples, ashrams, spiritual centers - in 23 states held free yoga classes for youth accompanied by adults. Thousands of participants came to the classes held across the nation. Yoga teachers from large organizations like Art of Living, Patanjali Yoga Peeth as well as many renowned independent teachers volunteered to conduct the classes as their way of contributing to the idea of service. Teachers traveled long distances, as needed, to offer their services at the host institutions. Stories of the Yogathon/YogaSeva events will be featured on the HASC website.
The Yogathon introduced youth to yoga as a means to reduce obesity and to promote healthy life style for all – adults and youth - while bridging cultures in an interfaith environment. Our experience with the national Yogathon revealed that there is no need to build bridges between cultures. Simply coming together and in the sharing of ourselves, we realize that we do not inhabit separate shores, but live a land that is itself a bridge. We only map what is already there.
Yoga is the life force of the Hindu philosophy, uniting spirituality with awareness of mind and body. “The essence of Hindu culture is based on yoga,” says Anju Bhargava, co-founder of HASC and a member of President’s Advisory Council on Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. “Yoga helps us to get in touch with our selves and what’s healthy for us. Through this event we shared some of our cultural aspects and our community’s insights on health and peace of mind while making it accessible for all Americans. By introducing yoga to children we hope it will help them in acquiring healthy habits at an early age.”
In New Orleans, the 5th Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina coincided with the Yogathon. It was mentioned by those present that they chose to attend the Yogathon as part of their personal observance of this significant date. These individuals saw the connection between healing oneself through yoga and healing one’s community through service.
The overall positive response of both the participants and the host temples, and their enjoyment of the event, is encouraging the community to continue this initiative as YogaSeva (Yoga community service). The hope is to continue to promote healthy living and peace of mind. Many plan to hold yoga classes through the month of September and hope to offer yoga and other health oriented programs on a regular basis.
Anju Bhargava is a co-founder of Hindu American Seva Charities.