India might be the home of yoga, but as it prepares for International Yoga Day on June 21, there are plans to set the idea in stone, in every sense of the phrase. What Wimbledon is to tennis, or the Marylebone Cricket Club is to cricket, the Maharashtra government’s proposed ‘Yoga University’ will be to yoga, under a plan to centralise and standardise the ancient exercise form. “Now that the world has accepted yoga, there is a need to move toward a central institution. And Maharashtra will be a pioneer in that concept,” said Shripad Dhekane, assistant to Vinod Tawde, speaking on behalf of the Maharashtra Education Minister.
Tawde called forward representatives from prominent yoga centres from all over the state to form a committee to plan the celebrations of International Yoga Day. Convening the gathering was Uday Deshpande, a yoga expert and veteran in the art of Mallakhamb. “Tawdeji called us forward because he says this is an age of marketing, and yoga needs a good level of exposure. So while discussing plans for June 21 itself, we thought about what else can be done beyond just a single day’s celebration and the idea of the university came about,” Deshpande said.
Though details about the exact location and nature of the establishment will be worked out once the Yoga Day celebrations are finished, Deshpande asserts a venue on the outskirts of a major city would be ideal. “It cannot be in the heart of a city because the university will need a lot of space. There has to be greenery around for people to meditate, along with ample area for research work,” he says.
Studies will be undertaken to encompass the effects of yoga on the human body and mind, with an aim to teach and invent more exercises. A teacher training programme too will be organised.
As the title ‘university’ also suggests, there will be courses offered in yoga which will be recognised by the government. “There are degree courses in yoga offered by NGOs at the moment, but they aren’t recognised. Once the university is set, our degrees will be legitimate,” adds Deshpande. The plans include forming a yoga committee or board to decide how to qualify yoga teachers, conduct examinations and competitions.
The study of the art form itself, said to have begun over 6,000 years ago, spawned many varied techniques and variants. Consequently, followers began branching out towards the various sects. “There are different yoga sects and every ideology believes they are better than the other. But here, this will all be established under one platform. A common programme that will unify all,” says Shripad Dhekane.
Deshpande, too, asserts that the formation of a singular ruling and unifying body will help standardise practices. “You can say that this university will be the ultimate authority in the field not only in India, but all over the world,” he said.
The idea behind forming a governing body though isn’t an original one. The US boasts of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) that lends an affiliation to yoga.
Nonetheless, the group charges a high price and Tawde is keen on reclaiming India’s ownership of yoga. An Indian authority however, will be rated highly based on the fact that it sits in the country of yoga’s birth, claim experts.