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In Japan, Zen and the art of yoga

In Japan, Zen and the art of yoga
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Parliamentarians in Tokyo put their shoes aside and rolled out the mats to try some postures

In most respects it was a typical weekday afternoon at the Japanese Parliament’s office building in central Tokyo. Men and women in dark suits scurried about holding folders of important-looking documents. The cherry trees lining the streets outside shone the dark green of summer.

But from within the bowels of the First Members of the House of Representative’s offices, a hypnotic, buzzing sound emanated, soft at first, but soon as strong as a storm of bees. The DIET was not suffering an infestation of winged insects, but celebrating the upcoming International Day of Yoga.

Gathered in a large, basement room, a dozen parliamentarians accompanied by another 100-odd Japanese yoga enthusiasts sat practising bhramari pranayama, before engaging in yogic calisthenics. Vriksha asana or tree pose, caused a little teetering but even the older MPs managed vajraasana, sitting back on the heels with the legs folded under the thighs. Their secret? Vajraasana is called ‘seiza’ in Japanese and is a traditional formal sitting pose.

Immediate resonance

Hakubun Shimomura, a 64-year-old Liberal Democratic Party parliamentarian, elaborated on the resonance that yoga has with Japanese culture. Mr. Shimomura has been practising yoga for about five years and immediately felt a connection, given the centrality of meditation and breathing to Zen Buddhism.

Japan’s is the only Parliament with an in-house Yoga Promotion League. Mr. Shimomura who serves as its Chairman, said that the 70-odd members of the group try to meet at least once a month to practise with teachers from the Yoga Organization of Japan. The teachers are certified by the Quality Council of India.

On this particular afternoon, the parliamentarians placed their polished shoes to the side of their mats and exchanged their office jackets for ‘International Day of Yoga’ T-shirts. Joining them was Indian Ambassador Sujan Chinoy. He had recently returned from an event in Kanagawa prefecture, where he was joined by the Governor and some 14,000 people in practising asanas.

The International Day of Yoga is marked on June 21.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2018 1:49:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/in-japan-zen-and-the-art-of-yoga/article24213893.ece