Over 1,200 yoga enthusiasts in South Africa's Soweto township on Tuesday got their first taste of yoga when they performed various 'asanas' at an event on the eve of International Day of Yoga.
The Consulate General of India in Johannesburg along with the volunteers of the Art of Living Foundation and yoga school trainers organised the event at a park in the township.
The participants included hundreds of school children who got their first taste of yoga.
Pastor Maureen Sabadell from the Alpha World Ministries Social Care, initiating the event with a universal prayer, explained how yoga brought about the much-needed relief from stress required by all as she expressed gratitude for the organisers sharing the experience with local residents.
"Yoga brings many benefits into our lives," said Consul General Dr K J Srinivasa as he encouraged the participants to share their experience with others for a stress-free harmonious society.
Yoga exponent Caroline Stieber and her assistants guided the participants through the many postures that yoga offers.
"If there was one clear outcome from this morning's activity, it was the fact that Yoga is a universal practice to be enjoyed by one an all, as a controlled and decisive response to the varied challenges faced from all kinds of stress, by people in every walk of life," said Nutan Kessa of the Art of Living Foundation.
Nthando Maseko, an off-duty policewoman, said "I had always believed that yoga was practised only by followers of Hindu saints, but now I am hooked on it as a devout Christian and will join regular classes just to stay fit".
Hawker Johannes Mthembu, who was passing by the park and decided to join in, said he was impressed at the statement by organisers that yoga brings peace to people.
"South Africa is currently suffering from a wave of violence against women and children amid a huge crime wave. I have seen that yoga can help individuals deal with stress and anger in healthier ways to create a peaceful and healthy society where human values are upheld, and all can live in harmony," said Mthembu.
The event was part of a week-long programme at different venues across South Africa coordinated by the Indian missions in all major cities. It will culminate on Sunday at a special yoga session at Tolstoy Farm, the commune started by Mahatma Gandhi during his tenure in Johannesburg at the turn of the 19th century.