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World celebrates first yoga day

Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the first ever United Nations International Yoga Day on Sunday.

The main event will be held at the University of Nairobi grounds from 9am, with others planned for Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret and Lamu.

Yoga, a physical, mental and spiritual discipline which has been gaining currency in many urban areas in Kenya, has its roots in India where it has been practised for centuries.

It largely involves physical moves and meditation but also extends to diet. Many gyms, educational institutions and social clubs now have yoga sessions.

Mr Hiren Padhak, a yoga instructor and member of the International Yoga Day committee in Nairobi, says there are misconceptions that yoga is a religion or is entirely about physical exercises.

“Yoga is about health, humanity and unity. It has so many levels right from having a clear and positive mind, how to behave and what types of food to eat,” he says, adding that he has been part of a team of instructors visiting schools and other institutions to create awareness on yoga.

STEREOTYPES

Other stereotypes associated with yoga are that it is practised only by women, that one needs to be skinny and flexible and that old people cannot do yoga.

Ms Wambui Gacuruba, a yoga adherent, says that the notion older people cannot do yoga is laughable.

At more than 60 years of age, Ms Gacuruba has been practising yoga for more than two decades and shows no signs of slowing down.

In 1990, while attending a seminar at the Theosophical Society in Parklands, she met an 80-year-old man teaching yoga. Awestruck by how flexible the man was, her interest was immediately stirred.

“This man could do anything with his body. I was straightaway interested in trying it out,” she says, adding that before that she had never heard of yoga.

Later on, she found an instructor who taught her how to comfortably do the postures and has now been practising yoga for 25 years.

BENEFITS

“The trick is to do it every day. When you start doing yoga let your body guide you so that you do not end up straining so much,” she says.

As a yoga for one-and-a-half years, Mr Sam Onyango, 26, says it has benefits for both men and women. Mr Onyango, who plays rugby for the United States International University – Africa (USIU-A) team, explains that yoga calls for dedication.

“Most people believe that because you’re lean it’s easy. I first went in with the attitude that because I’m an athlete and I jog regularly it would be a walk in the park. I don’t ever remember sweating like that during the first sessions,” recalls Mr Onyango.

He says at first he fell for the misconception that yoga was for women, but after the first class he came out with a positive mindset and has never looked back.

Mr Onyango is part of USIU-A’s yoga club that practises acro-yoga, a variant that fuses with acrobatics.

Today’s events involve group posture practice, presentations and lectures, free health check-ups, nutrition advice, meditation sessions and various exhibitions.