First international yoga conference hosted in Africa

Experts have encouraged locals to adopt a healthy lifestyle through the practice of yoga. Picture: REUTERS/Bing Guan

Experts have encouraged locals to adopt a healthy lifestyle through the practice of yoga. Picture: REUTERS/Bing Guan

Published Jul 2, 2024


Experts from India and Africa encouraged locals to adopt a healthy lifestyle through the practice of yoga.

Delegates and experts in the fields of yoga, Ayurveda and naturopathic science convened at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Senate Chamber Hall, Westville campus, this week for the International Yoga Conference themed ‘Yoga for Self and Society.’

The conference, hosted by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the High Commission of India and the Consulates of India in South Africa, Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre Durban in collaboration with S-VYASA University, Bangalore and the University of KwaZulu-Natal, was held for the first time in Africa.

It focused on the role and power of yoga in promoting health, happiness and harmony for self and society. About a dozen experts from African countries and India shared their knowledge and skills.

Shri Kumar Tuhin, director general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) said the conference was aimed at addressing the topic of yoga from an academic and research perspective.

He said that there was some evidence of yoga being a positive intervention in bringing about balance, especially in terms of the spiritual, mental and emotional dimensions of an individual.

Tuhin said that it also assisted those who practised it while they were ill and were hopeful of healing as it released chemicals in the brain which helped them in the healing process.

He said that they were hoping to rope in some local teachers and trainers to India, so that they would impart better training to them, and to also bring some other expert teachers from India who would do the training locally.

India's high commissioner to South Africa, Shri Prabhat Kumar, said that yoga had plenty of health benefits and that although much emphasis was placed on the physical aspect of it, there were also mental benefits to practising it.

He said that yoga was made unique by not requiring equipment in order to execute it.

“The thing about yoga is that not too much equipment is required. You can do it without even a mat. People are practising on their chairs so there are many ways of practising yoga,” said Kumar.

Mennaallah Aly, a yoga instructor, said that yoga should be practised by everyone and anyone, regardless of their age, gender or build and should be accessible regardless of their finances.

She added that clearing the misconceptions and understanding the science behind everything was key to successfully executing yoga.

Tuhin also took the opportunity during the conference to encourage prospective students to apply for the ICCR scholarships to study in India.

“ICCR also conducts a number of activities in terms of bringing scholarships to people and we are hoping we will be able to give a larger number of scholarships to people from South Africa and they can come to India and benefit from scholarship schemes,” he said.

The scholarships typically cover tuition fees, accommodation, airfare, and other expenses related to the program.

Applicants must be a minimum of 18 years old and not older than 40 years for undergraduate or post graduate courses, and 50 years for PhD courses.

The scholarships are available for academic disciplines in areas including, but not limited to arts, humanities, social sciences, engineering, technology, and natural sciences. Courses in medical fields and law are not included in the programme.

Scholarships may be given to undergraduate, postgraduate or research programs, ranging normally from three to four years.

A 500 word essay as a test of proficiency in English is required from candidates. Academic achievements, the potential for contribution to bilateral relations, and proficiency in English or other languages, depending on the program requirements may be included in the selection criteria.