India and EU mark world yoga day
Yoga event highlights closer political relations between EU and India.
A cross party group of MEPs has highlighted the benefits of yoga and meditation at an event in the European parliament on 21 April.
The event, a curtain raiser to international yoga day on 21 June was organised by parliament's delegation for relations with India and saw renowned humanitarian and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar deliver a keynote speech on yoga, followed by a detailed Q&A session.
The gathering was touted as, "the first time ever that an event has found resonance among members from all seven political groups of the European parliament," according to the chair of the India delegation, British Tory deputy Geoffrey Van Orden.
"I had the privilege of speaking at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's rally in Berlin several years ago and it is my great pleasure to welcome him to the European parliament."
"Yoga, as well as Sri Sri's extensive humanitarian work, inspires and unites people from all over the globe and I hope that this event will help build strong relations between our peoples."
Van Orden's British socialist colleague Neena Gill added that, "Among the many important lessons yoga teaches us, is the benefit of a holistic approach. I hope that the EU will apply these vital lessons in both internal and external policies."
"By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can also help us tackle issues like climate change and inequality. Ideally, a key outcome will be to strengthen our relationship and revive EU-India ties."
Indian ambassador to the EU Manjeev Singh Puri, who helped organise the event, said, "I am very proud that we have support across all the political groups, not only members of the India delegation. This is very unique and a testament to how popular yoga is, and its positive contribution to the world."
The UN marks 21 of June as international yoga day, a day to celebrate and highlight the benefits of yoga, according to Singh Puri.
"Yoga is something that although invented in India, is a great source of fun and wellbeing which has been given to the rest of the world. Therefore in one of the world's largest parliamentary assemblies, the European parliament, it seems appropriate to bring MEPs from across Europe together to carry out these celebrations."
He added, "I am also very happy that global humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be leading the event, and we will be working in partnership with the EU as well as the parliament."
Also paying tribute to Shankar, Slovenian EPP deputy Alojz Peterle said "Sri Sri's work is an authentic contribution towards achieving more peace, globally."
"This event and particularly the international yoga day, is an invitation for European leaders to engage in more intercultural dialogue that would lead to less violent societies, through 'violence-free' individuals. Fostering and sustaining peace, is a shared interest of both the EU and India"
Veteran German socialist member Jo Leinen backed Peterle's comments, adding, "I strongly support Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's engagement to bring people together and to overcome conflicts between them. Yoga has been fundamental in his work."
Leinen said he also believed that the event could help bring the EU and India closer politically, saying, "I am happy to co-host this event in the European parliament and I support the Indian government's decision to support yoga in its politics. This can be beneficial in the relationships between India and the whole world, as well as between India and the EU."
After the event, Shankar said he had enjoyed speaking to the MEPs, saying, "politicians are people too, and like us they also suffer from stress. Therefore they can also be helped by the benefits of yoga, especially in their decision making process."
He was also keen to stress how yoga has brought peace to people involved in conflicts. "I have been to both Sri Lanka following the civil war and also to some of the most violent parts of Iraq. I have spoken to soldiers, victims and terrorists and seen how yoga has brought inner peace to them and a transformation in their lives."
The event held on Tuesday, had the backing of MEPs from across all the parliament's major political groups, with support from Geoffrey Van Orden (ECR) Nirj Deva (ECR), Neena Gill (S&D), Jo Leinen (S&D) and Alojz Peterle (EPP) hosting, while other MEPS including Elmar Brok (EPP), Cora van Nieuwenhuizen (ALDE), Younous Omarjee (GUE), Claude Turmes (Greens), William Earl of Dartmouth (EFDD), and Franz Obermayr (NI).
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