Monday, February 26One world for all

All Together Now

First Annual International Yoga Day overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
First Annual International Yoga Day overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge on June 21 in San Francisco. Yogis said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inspired them to be there. They joined 24 million Americans with a daily yoga practice and 250 million yogis worldwide. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

By Sharon Simonson

SAN FRANCISCO—Vivekanand T Choudhry arrived early June 21 at Marina Green Park in San Francisco for International Yoga Day. It was a milestone for the 38-year-old Silicon Valley resident and Bihar, India, native.

Something in him changed when he heard Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden speech to the United Nations in September and Modi’s call for the global embrace of yoga as a force for good, Choudhry says. He has dabbled in yoga for many years. His wife, grandfather and father-in-law are dedicated to it. But he has never been able to practice consistently, until now.

Though he started in earnest a mere 10 days earlier, he admits with a laugh, his life’s trajectory has changed, he insists. “(Yoga) was not a priority; now it is,” he says.

Vivekanand T Choudhry
Vivekanand T Choudhry says he has plunged into a yoga practice in the last 10 days, inspired by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

Approximately 2,000 Bay Area yogis left warm Sunday-morning beds to face brisk San Francisco sea breezes and fog for the first-ever world event. Organizers hoped as many as 5,000 would down-dog in unison on the long stretch of bumpy grass bordering the bay. But with Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge, lots of port-a-potties and even the occasional car alarm, nearly everyone who did come seemed dedicated, loving and intensely interested.

blue-cir (4)More than an hour before programming started, a hundred people—most bundled in woolen hats, blankets and hoodies—already waited quietly on mats in front of the event stage. “Thank you for coming early,” an organizer told the group, a hint of irony in his voice as volunteers scurried about completing last-minute tasks.

International Yoga Day in San Francisco drew approximately 2,000 yogis to Marina Green Park overlooking the Bay and Fort Mason
International Yoga Day in San Francisco drew approximately 2,000 yogis to Marina Green Park overlooking the Bay and Fort Mason. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

Yoga is not about exercise, Modi admonished in his U.N. speech. “It should be a means to be connected with the world and with nature, and it should bring a change in our lifestyle and create awareness in us,” he said.

Yogi Janaki Nath
Yogi Janaki Nath has taught yoga since 1994 but does not charge for her instruction. She hopes the first International Yoga Day in San Francisco is a start toward more study for many people. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

A hope for that authenticity drew Yogi Janaki Nath to San Francisco to see if the gathering met its promise. The Brazilian immigrated to the United States in 1985 for a Berkeley professor and romantic love. She has taught yoga since 1994 but does not charge for her lessons. “Yoga has become commercial and competitive. Competition divides, and the nature of business is divisive,” she said.

Mostly, she wanted a new sense of community to come from the day. “Even though this is not the real yoga, it is a beginning,” she said. “We are integrating a little bit. It is a start for so many people here, I think.”

Yogi Dinesh Kashikar of Bangalore-based Art of Living Institute
Yogi Dinesh Kashikar of Bangalore-based Art of Living Institute at the first annual International Yoga Day in San Francisco. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

For Shashikant Jadhav—in San Francisco visiting two sons and a daughter-in-law, all engineers with advanced business degrees—the day was all about learning, as every day is. The 65-year-old Bombay resident is working toward a doctoral degree in yoga in India. He returns home and to his studies in August. He began practicing yoga 10 years ago. He had no expectations for the day other than to take what he found useful and to forget the rest. “I am very excited to see the way Modi is going,” he said. “This message should be taken throughout the world.”

Shashikand Jadhav
Yogi Shashikant Jadhav of Bombay is visiting his children in San Francisco. He is working toward a doctoral degree in yoga in India. (Photo by Jesus Nava Jr.)

Beyond the spiritual, yoga is pragmatic, he observed. “People don’t have money to pay their medical bills. But if you practice yoga, you will become healthy. And when your health is good, you can concentrate on other things.”

In the final minutes before the program starts, newborn yogi Choudhry takes time to look around, leaving his mat and car keys behind to mark his location. After a gust of wind lifts and spins the mat, casting the keys into thick clover and grass, a neighboring yogi retrieves both and replaces them in their original positions. “Trusting soul,” an onlooker observes. “It’s O.K.,” the neighbor yogi replies.




  • superb.
    this initiative should go on regular basis.
    even 10 minutes before starting any work will result in better output.
    all the best jadavji.
    now every sat and sunday before our class starts 15 min yoga.

    • I really liked this and can reatle very much to what he is sharing. To be Mindful is simply to be Aware moment to moment – it requires no real effort – just ‘being in the moment’ with awareness. It was this that the Buddah was trying to get across to us I feel. It does not mean we have to sit for hours and hours to achieve this mind set – just to have a loving awarenwss. I like what I heard from this chap. I have also found out for myself that maintaining a positive mind frame and not giving way to negative thoughts or anger is equally important. To recognise the true oneness of ourselves with ALL life forms, not just other humans, but with trees, birds, bears even the sky is to truly know love and compassion and to literally FEEL that unity and connectedness with those others – and they will feel it and respond as those ducks did out at that lake I go to in the bush. Remember? When I go down to the lake they come over and quake at me and I too them, not as a condescending person talking to a pet, but to other equal life forms who recognise each other in a loving way. Then we dance! 🙂 At least I jump up and down on the shore and they flap their wings and quake as we get more and more excited as we feel that loving connection. Thanks again, Mike. M.B.

  • Pritishah

    Great going to shashikantji our fellow classmate in Mumbai university n salute to our honorable prime minister Mr modified for raising a bar on the international platform for the divine art of living… yog

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