In case you missed it (and likely you have), Israel hosted the world’s largest yoga mat art installation on International Yoga Day (June 21) to celebrate yoga and art and help commemorate 25 years of diplomatic relations with India. Set up in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square and co-sponsored by the Indian Embassy, the 1500 painted mats became the centerpiece for hundreds of yogis who participated in yoga classes held throughout the day.
Israeli artist Sharonna Karni Cohen dreamt up the yoga mat concept and created the final vision—one of vitality and optimism—inspired by over 500 people who submitted ideas.
“I’ve been fascinated with the future of this country ever since I’ve been living here for the past seven years,” the 26-year-old artist told the Times of Israel. “I think it’s important to emphasize being optimistic. This artwork is meaningful to me and symbolizes peace to the thousands of people who will come here today to practice yoga,” Karni Cohen said.
It’s also helpful on the diplomatic front. Indian officials are quite pleased to see Israel practicing more yoga.
“We thought it was a beautiful idea [for the yoga mat art] so we joined hands with Sharonna,” said Anju Kumar, India’s deputy Chief of Mission. “The message of yoga is for the good of everyone, peace, happiness, and holistic well-being. Yoga means unity between the internal and external being. When the internal conflict is over, it helps external conflict.”
Speaking of yoga curing conflicts, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also big on the idea. Earlier this week, Modi paid an historic visit to Israel becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country. During an interview with Israel’s Channel 2, Modi commended Israelis for participating in International Yoga Day. He also suggested that the TV station start giving yoga a 30-minute time slot every day to further spread yoga awareness and “advance the holistic approach,” which, to us, sounds a touch too propa-yoga-ganda-y (something nationalist India is quite familiar with, especially the past few years since they woke up to the huge global yoga business and tried to mix it with politics, but anywho…).
When asked if he would invite Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for a little partner yoga sesh, Modi laughed, but we wouldn’t be surprised. Modi is all about spreading yoga. And, hey, it’s better than golf. Shouldn’t more (all?) world leaders practice yoga together? What would that look like?
When Modi’s interviewer asked if he thought yoga was a key to peace in the Middle East, Modi continued his laughter adding, “That would delight me.”
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