Washington: After White House and Pentagon and mushrooming of several studios across the nation, Yoga has conquered the last bastion in the US – the Congress.
Ahead of the first International Yoga Day on June 21 - a move initiated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly — a group of US lawmakers and hill staff have come together to form the first ever and one-of-its kind “Congressional Yogi Association”.
The inaugural event at the historic Cannon House Office Building of the US Congress was attended by a number of top American lawmakers.
Prominent among them were Tim Ryan, Charles Rangel, and Barbara Lee.
Organised by the Congressional Yogi Association with support of the Indian Embassy here, the first-ever “Yoga on the Hill” on May 1 was attended by Brennan Mullaney (Team RWB- veterans' welfare organisation) and Tom Voss (Iraq War veteran).
Around 60 Congressional officials participated in the yoga and meditation session.
Congressman Tim Ryan from Ohio, who performed yoga and meditation along with others, said an important issue faced by Americans is extremely high levels of stress.
“I have found that mindfulness and the practice of yoga help to reduce stress, improve concentration, and increase feelings of well-being,” he said.
“I am happy to support the first annual Yoga on the Hill event and the Congressional Yogi Association in raising awareness for the many benefits a yoga practice can bring to individuals across the country,” Ryan said.
“As a Korean War Veteran, Yoga on the Hill's mission to promote wellness among the veteran community is close to my heart,” said Congressman Charles B Rangel.
Congresswoman and Member of House Subcommittee on Veteran Affairs Barbara Lee said, “As we begin Mental Health Awareness month, I hope that today's event increases awareness about the benefits of practicing yoga, especially for our veterans.”
“As a member of the subcommittee responsible for funding our veterans' programs, I hope that we will continue expanding research and access to health alternatives like yoga that improve the quality of life for our brave veterans,” Lee said.
According to its website, the Congressional Yogi Association aims to make yoga more accessible to Members and staff to promote mental and physical wellness on the Hill, both for seasoned yogis and beginners.
“Yoga transcends political ideologies, inviting all those who wish to practice to come to the mat and enjoy the benefits a yoga practice can provide.
“Yoga teaches patience and acceptance, qualities which we believe are essential to better people and better public servants,” it said.
Ahead of the June 21 celebrations, this was the second yoga event at the Capitol Hill this week the first event being a meditation session held by spiritual speaker Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
The Indian Embassy in Washington started the series with the Talk by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on ‘Nurturing Peace through Yoga and Meditation' on April 29th.
In addition to the Yoga on the Hill event on May 1, the Embassy also hosted an event at University of Maryland, in partnership with their student association DESI (Develop, Empower and Synergize India), Life in Yoga organisation and the Art of Living Foundation.
The event was held at an open theatre within the University premises, where students and faculty members took part in the yoga demonstration and listened to experts on yoga.