Monday, June 15, 2015

International Day of Yoga event in Vancouver is cancelled after protests

You tell me just how I can take this Yoga serious
When all it ever gives to me is a pain in my posterious.

Yoga is as Yoga Does, as performed by Elvis Presley (with Elsa Lanchester) in the movie Easy Come, Easy Go (1967).

The definition of yoga--a Sanskrit word literally meaning yoking, from yunakti, he yokes--from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary (1965):
1 cap: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation 2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being
I wasn't aware until a few hours ago that June 21 is International Day of Yoga; I find it interesting that this has been set by the United Nations for the first day of summer, which is also a day widely celebrated by pagans. British Columbia Premier Christy Clark invited yogis to participate in a celebration to be held in Vancouver, as reported by Brian Morton of the Vancouver Sun, June 5, 2015:

Premier Christy Clark on Friday invited yogis from around the province to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga on June 21.

Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province for the celebration, which organizers hope will be the largest International Day of Yoga event outside of India.

Yogis are invited to arrive at the bridge by 8 a.m. on June 21 for an 8:30 a.m. start. The bridge will be closed between 4 a.m. and 11 a.m. to vehicular traffic in both directions.

Instructors from the Vancouver yoga community will lead participants through an hour-long yoga session.

"India has given the world a great gift in yoga, with dedicated followers around the world," Clark said. "It's become part of the cultural fabric in B.C., and particularly so in the Lower Mainland. That's why we're inviting beginners and yogi masters alike from across the province to Vancouver — to come together to celebrate yoga in record numbers, and most importantly, have fun."

The official slogan of the event is "Om the Bridge," and people are encouraged to use the hashtag #Omthebridge leading up to the big day.

The cities of Vancouver and Surrey are also supporting the event.
And as reported by Mr. Morton in the Vancouver Sun, June 6, 2015:

Vancouver yogis take note: you’ll have two large yoga sessions to choose from for the inaugural International Day of Yoga June 21 — the Plaza of Nations and the Burrard Bridge.

Just don’t call it a competition.

“We believe at least 1,500 people (will be) at this event,” said Nirmala Raniga, organizer of the Plaza of Nations event, announced Tuesday.

“We want to set it up in such a way that people can register and show up and embrace the day because the schedule is a full day,” added Ramiga, whose session is presented by the International Day of Yoga, Vancouver Committee, and endorsed by the Consulate General of India.

On Friday, Premier Christy Clark also invited yogis to roll out their mats and strike a pose on the Burrard Bridge for the International Day of Yoga. Lululemon Athletica, YYoga and AltaGas are partnering with the province with the shared goal of hosting the largest celebration outside of India...

...Raniga said that she had originally booked her all-day session at Robson Square, but was subsequently told she could only have it for two hours, so she had to book the Plaza of Nations.

Asked if she believed the hours were cut back because of the province’s yoga session on Burrard Bridge, Raniga said she didn’t know.

“I was approached by the consul-general of India months ago asking if we could put an event together for yoga day. So we’ve been working very closely with the consulate on this,” she said.

She noted that, unlike the Burrard Bridge session, the Plaza of Nations event is booked for the whole day. “They’re doing it on a bridge. We picked a venue that allows people to come out and be in yoga and not just do the practice of yoga, but really embrace the whole aspect of yoga. Also, we’ll have some discussion on lifestyle.”

Raniga doesn’t like to think of the two events as a competition. “I don’t take it in that way. I think it’s for everyone. If they want to go to the Burrard Bridge and hang out, that’s great for them. We invite everybody who wants to come out to our venue.

“I have also set one up (a session) in Victoria and a second event in Squamish. It’s meant to bring everybody together.”
However, the announcement of the event prompted protests, and a response from Premier Clark, as reported by Tiffany Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 12, 2015:

Some of the critics opposed to the closure of a major Vancouver bridge for International Yoga Day are "haters" of the practice, B.C. Premier Christy Clark says.

The premier announced last week that the Burrard Street Bridge would close for several hours on June 21 for the international event.

Criticism quickly followed in local media and social media - her plan even drew the ire of children's entertainer Raffi Cavoukian.

Clark has posted a photo on Twitter of her standing outside a Taoist Tai Chi office accompanied by text that says: "Hey, Yoga Haters - bet you can't wait for international Tai Chi day."

She has also told reporters that similar events are taking place in New York's Times Square, at the Washington Monument and across India.

Clark is questioning whether her critics would be complaining if the bridge were shut down for a ballhockey tournament or marathon. "There are thousands of people, many of them women, who find peace in their day by doing yoga, and I think it's a little puzzling to see so many people criticizing something that people do, that thousands of British Columbians do every day to find a little bit of peace in their lives," she said.

"I think that's something in a province, where we care about good health and well-being, that we should be celebrating."

But First Nations groups are planning to crash the yoga party.

The Om The Bridge event coincides with National Aboriginal Day, and groups unhappy with that are asking people to protest the event.

Several pages have been set up on social media calling for a peaceful disruption of the mass yoga class with signs, singing and drumming.

"Be an ally on National Aboriginal Day. Hold space for indigenous people, who continue to be systematically ignored, by crashing (Premier) Christy Clark's yoga party," one organizer wrote on Facebook.

Responding to questions about her tweet in Victoria, Clark said it was a joke.

"That was a bit of self deprecating humour," she said. "We are celebrating National Aboriginal Day, absolutely we are. We're also celebrating Father's Day in my household and we're also celebrating the United Nations day that was designated for International Yoga Day," she said. "Yoga is a huge part of people's lives here."
The protests have been effective, because the event has been cancelled, as reported by Ms. Crawford in the Vancouver Sun, June 13, 2015:

VANCOUVER - Vancouver’s Om the Bridge yoga event has been cancelled following a week of controversy and organizers say they will look for another venue.

Sponsors Lululemon, YYoga and Altagas announced Friday they were pulling out after backlash ensued over costs and the bridge closure among other issues.

Christy Clark also announced Friday she would not participate in the event, scheduled for June 21.

“Unfortunately, the focus of the proposed Burrard Street Bridge event has drifted towards politics, getting in the way of the spirit of community and inner reflection,” Clark said in a statement. “It was for that reason I decided not to participate.”

Jill Batie, a spokeswoman for Lululemon, confirmed the yoga wear company had decided not to participate in the Om the Bridge event, scheduled for June 21 on Burrard Bridge.

“Downward dogs with a few thousand of our closest friends seemed like the perfect way to celebrate International Day of Yoga. Until it didn’t,” an emailed statement from Batie read.

“We’ve read your posts and the media reports, and heard the disappointment in the voices of our community frustrated by the location, cost and date. We had the best intentions. And so we’re taking a deep cleansing breath and over the next several days, we’ll be reimagining a celebration that honours the spirit and tradition of yoga and serves our communities in a more meaningful way. Because ultimately, yoga is about connecting us to ourselves, each other, our environment, and eventually, our truth. Look for more information on our social channels coming soon. Thanks for your understanding. Namaste.”

In a statement posted online, YYoga CEO Terry McBride said they have been listening to the community, and that they would be looking at other ways to celebrate International Day of Yoga.

“The importance of celebrating the tradition of yoga still rings true for us. We are working with our partners from the community to deliver something that serves them in a more meaningful way,” he said.

“Please stay tuned for something that will reflect the tradition of yoga, and the wishes of our community ... in a park.”

The move follows Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson saying he won’t take part in the event, option instead to celebrate National Aboriginal Day, and a tweet earlier Friday from Premier Clark saying she won’t participate.

Premier Clark’s office said it was always her plan to attend the yoga event, but she has since felt it has become too political to make a personal appearance. Clark’s office would not say what she intends to do instead, saying the premier’s schedule will be revealed closer to the actual day.

Since last Friday’s announcement there has been a significant backlash over the $150,000 cost to taxpayers, the bridge closure, the LNG sponsor and that it’s being held on the same day as National Aboriginal Day.

“On the face of it, I found Premier Clark’s idea to host an international yoga event on the Burrard Street Bridge to be completely flakey,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, head of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs. “But at the same time, I also felt it was a blatant political opportunism.”

Phillip said he was particularly concerned about Clark’s decision to promote International Yoga Day over national Aboriginal Day because of the recent release of a report by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which called on Canadians to change their relationship with First Nations.

Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan said that while Clark has said she didn’t want to mix yoga and politics, she did just that.

“Where this event went sideways was that it was an expense of public dollars that seemed wasteful,” Horgan said. “Millionaires get tax breaks and the premier shuts down a road so she can have a yoga class. I think that offended people.”
I side with the protesters, but for a reason in addition to those mentioned above. My objection is to the Premier using her position as the province's highest official to promote and spend public money on a Hindu religious event. Such behaviour would probably be considered unacceptable and would result in a court case if it were a Christian event being promoted. I have no doubt that Ms. Clark is correct when she says that Yoga is "part of the cultural fabric of B.C." and a "huge part of people's lives here;" I take that as more evidence that the increasingly unrecognizable country that still officially goes by the name of Canada is a whited sepulchre full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27).

You can count this blogger among the "Yoga Haters." My opinion of Yoga was well expressed by Elvis Presley in the words quoted at the top of this post. Submitted for your approval, the following item in recognition of International Day of Yoga:

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