Yogathon – Health for Humanity 2019 earlier last week announced that New Zealanders have collectively performed circa 137,000 Sun Salutations (known as Surya Namaskar) over the two weeks of the national challenge. 

Yogathon 2019 was a two week event across New Zealand, encouraging New Zealanders to learn, participate and incorporate yoga into their daily lives.  Participants registered online, individually or as groups and performed Surya Namaskar at their own pace and in their own time.  They counted the number of times they did the cycle, a combination of 12 asanas (postures) and submitted their total count to the organising team. 

“This success belongs to every participant in New Zealand that decided to try a sun salutation and submitted their number to contribute to the target that was set,” a spokesperson from Yogathon NZ said.

Yogathon NZ, a division of the Hindu Council of New Zealand, in its eighth year of operation and growing larger than ever has surpassed the ambitious target on 108,000 Surya Namaskars, which also means that the organisers are positive over the future prospects of the event. 

Volunteers at Kawai Purapura, Albany

“Yogathon will keep working towards the objective of making yoga more integrated in people’s lives.  This year we did a Surya Namaskar Yagna, which was mainly focused on teaching the technique and practicing it,” National Yogathon Coordinator, Ajay Agrahari said.

“Our journey doesn’t stop here, in the future Yogathon will incorporate all elements of yoga, including Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and others. 

“For this year we were focussing our target of 108,000 surya namsakars and it is heart-warming to see us exceed this target.” he added. 

The goal to complete 108,000 sun salutaions was launched on June 15 across eight locations in New Zealand, with closing ceremonies taking place on Saturday, June 29 in Auckland and Wellington. 

The closing ceremony of Yogathon 2019 witnessed hundreds of participants, yoga schools, studios, gyms, school, community organisations, teachers and volunteers who made the event a massive success.  

Invited guests at Closing Ceremony in Auckland

Members of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Parmjeet Parmar were also present at the closing ceremony held in Auckland.

“Yoga is more than physical wellbeing, it plays a crucial role in mental wellbeing and contributes to holistic living,” said Mrs Ranjna Patel, guest speaker and Board Member of Mental Health Foundation NZ. 

“Meditation and mindfulness are a part of yoga.  These techniques help us to cope with stress in our lives,” she added.  

Renowned yogini Sannyasi Pragyadhara, also a guest speaker for the closing ceremony, highlighted the benefits of yoga and how it brings a lot of order to one’s life.  She emphasised how practicing yoga and doing the asanas teach us the values of Dharma, sustainability and life.  She highlighted that Surya Namaskar is a package which includes mantra (sound vibrations), asana (body postures), pranayama (breathing exercises) and dhyana (meditation).

Yogathon at work Place, Participants at IQVIA Yoga Club

“Achieving the target would not have been possible without the support of all participants.  We are grateful and thankful to all the yoga studios around all these cities for opening their doors for free yoga classes during the past two weeks to support Yogathon and raise awareness of the importance of yoga to our health.  The overwhelming support for this event makes us delighted that yoga is indeed mainstream in New Zealand.” Mr Agrahari said at his welcome speech. 

Mr Agrahari added that schools, childcare centres, community organisations, youth groups, temples, yoga schools, individuals collaborated with Yogathon by offering yoga to young and old, regardless of ethnicity and background and each of them helped immensely in ensuring accessibility to yoga was not limited due to ability.

“It is with pleasure I share with you that this year we had participation from more cities than ever before, including Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Wellington, Palmerston North, Coromandel, Rotorua, Nelson and also the oldest gold town of New Zealand, Westport.” said Ajay Agrahari. 

“This year, Yogathon was organised to coincide with the International Day of Yoga.  This made it much easier for the public to participate, join in and talk about yoga in our lives.”

Participants doing Surya Namaskar at Anahata Retreat, Golden Bay

Art of Living contributed a count of 8,700 Surya Namaskar, Hindu Swamyasevak Sangh approximately 11,000, Yogi Divine Society 12,000, while Dr Pooja’s Yoga & Integrated Mind Body Therapies contributed a whopping over 46,200 Surya Namaskars.  In the individual category, Mrs Kavitha Magesan of Rotorua performed 108 Surya Namaskar every single day for the 14 days, winning in the individual category. 

On this year’s International Day of Yoga  (June 21), Yoga Education in Prisons Trust in collaboration with Yoga in Daily Life Wellington and Yogathon performed Surya Namaskar in Wellington to fundraise for yoga and meditation classes for prisoners. 

“With yoga proving more and more popular as understanding of it grows, Yogathon NZ will add some exciting new elements to future programmes and campaigns, Mr Agrahari concluded.

Closing ceremony in Auckland with participants, volunteers and event coordinators with Members of Parliament Hon Kanwaljeet Bakshi, Members of Parliament Hon Parmjeet Parmar, Ranjna Patel Board Member of Mental Health Foundation NZ and Renowned yogini Sannyasi Pragyadhara