Due to protests by Muslim groups, there won’t be a ‘Surya Namaskar’ routine on International Yoga Day celebrations in India. In as much as this is hugely disappointing, and it’s a fact that there are some Muslims who are Yoga exponents and instructors and love their faith as well as Yoga, Yogi Adityanath in my opinion, is wrong to make the comments he made against those who oppose Yoga or the Surya Namaskar routine. And I’ll tell you why including sharing my perspective on Yoga.
It is indeed sad that Surya Namaskar the best. complete, fundamental and wholesome yoga routine ever, has been dropped from the grand Yoga event in India where 35,000 people including politicians, armed services, film stars, the youth and school children are expected to take part, on International Yoga day on the 21st of June 2015, celebrated for the first time, world over.
By this event India also hopes to make it to the Guinness Book of Records!
Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and Baba RamDev, the famous Yoga Guru will be leading the Yoga drill scheduled to take place, in the early morning hours of Sunday morning “on Rajpath, the main ceremonial avenue in Delhi that stretches from Rashtrapati Bhawan, the presidential palace, to the majestic India Gate.”
In New York too more than 30,000 people are expected to assemble in Time Square for the event where UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, UN General Assembly President Sam Kutesa and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj are scheduled to speak.
It was on Narendra Modi’s plea, made at his maiden speech as Prime Minister of India in the United Nations (UN), that the UN declared the 21st of June as International Yoga Day. 
In fact Narendra Modi attributes his ability to keep working all day and sleeping less, managing only a few hours of sleep but sound quality sleep at night to Yoga and Pranayam: “If I feel tired I have a habit of doing deep breathing for 5-10 minutes, after doing deep breathing for 5-10 minutes I become fresh and start my work again,” he told a viewer at a ‘Google+Hangout programme who asked him how he keeps working long hours and how many hours of sleep he gets. 
But it seems in India politics and religion have got in the way of Yoga – both an ancient art and a science which in health terms, is undeniably preventative, curative and therapeutic to say the least. It has now been announced that the Centre has decided to drop Surya Namaskar from the programme on International Yoga Day as a result of protests from the Muslim community:
After protesting against Modi government’s plans of including surya namaskar as part of Yoga drill in schools on 21 June, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) finally got its way,” the First Post stated in its article: International Yoga Day: Centre Axes Asana to Sooth Irate Muslim groups.
This aside, with all due respect to the prevailing Muslim view, it is refreshing to note, there are at least two staunch “practicing” Muslims as well as Yoga exponents and instructors in the planet whom I have heard of, who in complete contrast to what some Muslims feel, even find similarity in the Muslim prayer and the Surya Namaskar routine. If you read Yogi Fari’s blog, “Yoga in all things”  you will find how strong she is in her view that, “Islam and Yoga can co-exist”:
“I am a practicing Muslim, I believe in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and I believe in the Koran. I also believe in Yoga. I believe.. that Islam and Yoga can co-exist. Somewhere along the road, it has been insinuated that I might not be a good Muslim because I do Yoga. This post is to address that voice and to quiet it..Yoga did come through Hinduism, there is no denying that, but we are grown up enough to understand that you can take your practice where you want it to go. Who says when you meditate, you can’t call out to Allah, Jesus or even the Candy Man? In the end you know what is in your heart and no God will deny your truth….I have a feeling my parents don’t like to tell people that I teach Yoga, because they are embarrassed and may be ashamed that their daughter went all the way to the United States to get a degree in finance and instead is teaching Yoga..A lot of people don’t realize this but if you look at the Muslim prayer, the actual routine, it is very similar to yogic poses… It has mountain pose, hero’s pose, forward bend, child pose and a hand mudra. To someone like me, there are many similarities between these two deeply spiritual practices and I find a natural flow and balance in living like a Muslim Yogi. I am not saying Islam came from Yoga, or vice versa, I am simply saying that Yogis and Muslims are more alike than people realize. In a place like India where Hindus and Muslims live side by side, Yoga is a way of life. I once read a story about an Indian Muslim who woke up at 5 am and then did his Yoga routine. When asked if he felt Yoga was in contradiction to his faith, his response was that from a purely physical point of view, Yoga helped him perform his prayers better. You can read this great article here: Can’t Yoga and Islam get along” 
In this article referred to by Yogi Fari, “Can’t Yoga and Islam get along” Insiya Rasiwala-Finn who like Yogi Fari is a Muslim Yoga exponent and instructor from Vancouver, Canada, talks of a fatwa issued by Muslim clerics in Malaysia back in 2008 and says its “ludicrous” that Yoga an “un-dogmatic practice” can be seen as a threat to an organised religion such as Islam :
“In November 2008, Muslim clerics in Malaysia issued a religious edict banning the practice of yoga by Muslims. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic nation of 27 million people, two thirds of them Muslim. The Muslim clerics deemed yoga to be haramharam (forbidden) because of yoga’s Hindu and Indian roots and suggested badminton as a possible fitness alternative. Abdul Shukor Husin, chairman of Malaysia’s highest Islamic body, the National Fatwa Council, stated that, “many Muslims fail to understand that yoga’s ultimate aim is to be one with a god of a different religion,” namely Hinduism. While Malaysia’s prime minister soon overruled the religious edict and responded that he did not object to Malaysian Muslims practicing yoga as long as they stayed away from chanting or any religious aspects of the practice; and while technically a fatwa is not legally binding, I found myself fascinated by this story. The idea that yoga, something I consider a spiritual, yet un-dogmatic practice, can be seen as a threat to an organized religion, particularly a religious tradition that I come from, struck me as ludicrous.”
The stories of these two Muslims who follow their Islamic faith as well as practice Yoga with equal reverence are indeed refreshing as much as they are rare; their liberal thinking should be applauded.
That’s why when I like to think Hinduism is the most tolerant of other religions, there are those who bring discredit to it and behave intolerably. In as much as I am hugely disappointed that Surya Namaskar, has been dropped on Yoga Day in India in schools and in the main event in the capital, Delhi, I have to say I am equally disappointed at Yogi Adityanath’s response to those who oppose the routine. I strongly feel, despite protest from the Muslims and whatever the hostility and provocation coming from the opposing side, the revered Yogi Adityanath should not have reacted negatively and made the comments he is apparently supposed to have made.  It has been widely reported that the BJP Parliamentarian and Yogi went as far as saying that those, “who oppose Yoga and Surya Namaskar must leave India (Hindustan).” 
I dare say Yogi Adityanath’s comments against those who were opposed to the practice of Yoga and Surya Namaskar is wrong. I am glad Sushma Swaraj the Minister for External Affairs has called his comments unfortunate. Yogi Adityanath is supposed to have, among other, cussed those who “oppose” Surya Namaskar, saying they, “should drown” that they will be condemned to “darkness” that, “the sun has “never discriminated” against anyone and that the, “intelligence of those opposed to Surya Namaskar is laughable”.
Before I tell you why he’s wrong in my opinion, as much as I know as a practicing Yogi myself, let me tell you the Surya Namaskar, also known as the Sun Salute is a way of paying obeisance to the rising Sun and invoking the Sun God, you could say, in Yoga parlance; the Sun among other from which we obtain Prana – the life force – the vital life energy, without which we are a mere corpse.
The whole purpose is to get the maximum benefit of the Sun’s rays (energy) as it rises, whilst performing a combination of stretches, a complete and wholesome routine in itself, designed to keep you in sound physical and mental health…by getting all your systems working. “It activates the endocrine system and the chakras, the vortexes through which the prana – the vital life energy is channelled, helping to build strength and flexibility.” it is said. It has twelve asanas that’s performed on both the right and left sides in a flowing manner, amounting to 24; all of the movements done in harmony with the breath. And each asana has a corresponding mantra (name for the sun) which is repeated whilst the routine is performed and additionally a final mantra at the culmination of the routine; each mantra be it known is a name for the Sun God actually describing its attributes.
This said, the revered Yogi I dare say is wrong for the following reasons:
- He’s wrong because his comment has brought disrepute to Yoga Sadhana, it’s sanctity and the amazing Surya Namaskar
- He’s wrong to expect everyone to have the desire to practice Yoga Sadhana and perform the Surya Namaskar
- He’s wrong to cuss that people should drown; to condemn people to darkness and say, “their intelligence is laughable,” because they oppose Surya Namaskar is counter-productive and can make people detest it more
- He’s wrong because the Hindu pantheon to which Yoga is a part does not force or pro-actively convert people to its philosophy, rituals or way of life
- He’s wrong to condemn people to darkness and then say, “the Sun does not discriminate.” The irony is that yes, the Sun doesn’t discriminate at all, it freely shines on everyone, never grudging its light or nourishment to anyone!
- He’s wrong as the Sun is very giving; the names given to the Sun (that are repeated like a mantra whilst performing each asana) are actually its attributes as you will see here below and embody benevolence more than anything!
1. Aum Mithraya Namaha…who is friendly to all
2. Aum Ravaye Namaha…the shining light, the radiant one
3. Aum Suryaya Namaha…the dispeller of darkness
4. Aum Bhanave Namaha …who illumines
5. Aum Khagaya Namaha…who is all pervading
6. Aum Pushne Namaha…the giver of nourishment
7. Aum Hiranyagarbhaya Namaha.. who is golden in colour
8. Aum Marichaya Namaha…the giver of light with infinite rays
9. Aum Adityaya Namaha…the son of Aditi – the cosmic divine mother
10.Aum Savitre Namaha…the one who is responsible for life
11.Aum Arkaya Namaha…worthy of praise and glory
12.Aum Bhaskaraya Namaha… giver of wisdom and cosmic illumination
Aum Sri Savitra Surya Narayanaya Namaha
(Note that the routine may be performed simply without the chants, as is the case when it comes to the vast numbers who do Surya Namaskar – most practice without the chants.)
While there is much good that can be said about us human beings, it is deplorable we are at times steeped in such intolerance, prejudice, small mindedness and bigotry. When will we realize that there is but One God and One Humanity – a truth so well articulated by a Great Siva Yogi himself, Thirumular.”Onre Kulam Oruvane Thevan”! Why can’t we celebrate each other’s uniqueness as a people but also give each other the space to thrive and build on that uniqueness.