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Celebrating International Yoga Day in Hungary

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I’ll be celebrating International Yoga Day on Saturday (June 22, the day after this issue is published) along with my fellow yoginis and yogis in Szeged at a public yoga class.

Participants in a mass yoga event in New York.

This will involve all the different yoga groups in the city and will, so my fantastic yoga teacher Ági tells me, be blessed with the presence of the Indian Ambassador to Hungary.

International Yoga Day has been celebrated in Hungary ever since it was declared as such by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015. The event was proposed by the then Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi in 2014.

He summed up the value of the practice and its significance in an address, saying “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”

If you’re a yoga devotee in Budapest, you’ll also be able to attend free public yoga events on June 22. International Yoga Day is actually June 21 but, as this is a work day, the likelihood of thousands massing in Hungary’s parks is presumably not that likely. Shame. It would make for a fine peaceful revolution.

India-Hungary Partnership

The Indian Embassy offers a daylong celebration of yoga and, as it puts it, “India-Hungary Partnership” at Bálna Budapest, the whale-shaped cultural center by the river on the Pest side. This is supported by the Budapest Sivananda Jógaközpont people. Also on Saturday, you have the Solstice Yoga Festival on Margaret Island, organized by the Atma Center and Mantra Yoga Studio.

If you want to explore the more exotic byways of the world of yoga, today (Friday) Navnihal Kaur, leader of the Adi Shakti Kundalini Yoga Center will be holding a Summer Solstice Gong Bath called a Gong Puja at Harmonia Place, Budapest that lasts for between seven and eight hours.

According to Zoltán Ambrus (Kundalini Yoga name Navraj Singh), who runs the Adi Shakti Kundalini Yoga Center in Budapest with his wife, “The vibration of a gong is a powerful method for reducing stress. The gong creates an ocean of sound that is profoundly relaxing; a state which activates the parasympathetic nervous system to balance the sympathetic nervous system. A gong bath is excellent therapy for depression, fatigue, feelings of separation, loneliness, anger, fear, hostility and many other conditions caused by a lack of balance and harmony in the body and mind.”  

If you’ve never had a gong bath, I urge you to try one. They really are incredibly relaxing. So much so that I always enter into a most pleasant altered state and often drift off to sleep entirely. I have to say that I’m tempted by the idea of a marathon gong bath.

European Pioneer

When I first came to Hungary, I thought that yoga was a recent introduction to this country. I assumed yoga was just another manifestation of the Western vogue for wellness. But I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Hungarian spiritual teacher Elisabeth Haich and Indian yogi and author Selvarajan Yesudian, who arrived in Hungary in 1937, opened what’s claimed to be the first ever European yoga school in Budapest in 1941. It operated until 1948 when the communists came to power. Haich and Yesudian fled to Switzerland where they founded a new yoga school.  

I’m not sure how yoga was regarded under Hungarian socialist rule. The spiritual, mystical aspects of the practice would have been frowned on for sure. If the situation was anything like it was in Russia, yoga would have gone underground. If anyone reading this knows the story, please let me know via this newspaper.

Today, yoga studios are springing up all over Hungary. It’s possible to practice every contemporary style, from hot Bikram yoga to gentle, relaxing Yin yoga. One of these studios is the popular Aum Jógaközpont which makes a point of offering classes in English at its Astoria and Blaha studios in central Budapest.

For Renáta Szili of Aum, “International Yoga Day is a great reason to just be together and practice various forms of yoga with passionate teachers and loads of other fellow yogis. Energies and joy are multiplied when we practice in a group. Yoga is very popular in Hungary and I’m glad it’s reaching more people every year. Here you can now find everything from traditional yoga to the new wave styles.”

In future, Szili hopes that “more and more people will realize that yoga is actually a very practical guide to living a balanced life. It’s OK to start with yoga on a physical level and stay at that place. But there’s so much more to the practice.”

I absolutely agree. I got into yoga in my forties because I needed to become healthier. But I’ve stuck with yoga because of the extraordinary way it’s transformed just about every aspect of my life. If you’ve never done yoga before and find the time to take part in an International Yoga Day event, maybe it’ll be the first step on your yoga journey. I hope so.

Find out more about the Budapest events on June 22 at the Facebook pages for Sivananda Jógaközpont and Napforduló Jógafesztivál. If you’re intrigued by the notion of a gong bath, go to www.shaktijoga.hu. For details of yoga classes in English at Aum, visit www.pest.aumyoga.hu.

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