Yoga and India are twinned forever. It is our free gift to the world. No squabbling over the GI tag despite its Indian provenance. Though no such altruism was visible closer home , in the tug-of-war a few years ago on the question of ‘whose Rossogula is it?’ between West Bengal and Orissa.

Yoga practice dates back thousands of years to our pre-Vedic period but it was sage Maharishi Patanjali, not the jet setting Yoga guru Ramdev’s business behemoth, who first codified and systemised yoga through the ‘Yoga Sutras’, a classical Sanskrit text.

Yoga is a global phenomenon now, with a dedicated International Yoga Day on June 21, celebrated with asanas and stretches en masse in all climes and locations.

Swami Vivekanand, and other sages after him, also propagated Yoga as a spiritual practice, a perfect union of mind, body, soul and spirit with ‘samadhi’ as the ultimate goal. It was the Beatles with their high profile presence in Rishikesh, who gave a pop touch to transcendental meditation, and yoga under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

With George Harrison's sitar strumming to boot, Yoga caught the attention of the Anglophone world. And there was no stopping yoga’s nimble march across the globe.

With that came ‘yoga ke side effects’. Ashrams, yoga studios and retreats sprouted everywhere from Brussels to Bombay. People splurged on yoga merchandise, and being seen with a yoga mat in the West became trendy.

Now with the internet and its lure of ‘Insta-ready’ pics the yoga fixation continues. Largely, yoga is trending more as a fitness tool in the West, an esoteric gymming of sorts.

But online yoga is a Johnny/Jagannath come lately. It has become a superior kind of Zumba. Many fitness exercises are perhaps offshoots of yoga postures.

Even the Chinese Tai Chi, that’s about 600 years old, seems to have many similarities with yoga postures. (Am I adding more fuel to the fire under the simmering pot of Sino-Indian disputes?!)

And as commerce rules the world, many faux-yogis are dipping into this trend to stretch the limits of their coffers. Instagram lures you with indie online yoga ‘gurus’ of all stripes.

Body shaming is a shame, hence the new belief that one should be comfortable in one’s skin. Sure, but you can still get under someone’s skin metaphorically, so the appetite for a perfect body continues. Never mind the Mind!

Yoga has elevated Yogi Adityanath from being a head priest to becoming the Numero Uno of the most populous state in Bharat. Rishi Sunak, not a Maharishi as yet, is espousing his Hindu temple- going heritage with eclat. With his boyish looks and slender frame he could be a poster boy for yoga. The Yanks with their insularity couldn’t go beyond the cartoon character, Yogi Bear.

My close encounters with online yoga have been daunting but enjoyable. For one, my knowledge of physiological terminology is hugely improved.

Hamstrings, glutes, quads, and other musculature are now familiar terms: what with the political Quad stretching its muscles to breach the Great Wall of China.

I am neither hamstrung by any asanas nor going round the bend doing stretches and twists. Glutes sounds far more dignified than saying muscles of the derrière in more crass terms.

There’s a yoga posture of standing on one leg to improve balance. It is like the punishment meted out to errant school children in days of yore, you’ll be in deep trouble if you so much as rap a child on the knuckles now.

One even does ear pulls as a Yogic exercise. We didn’t realise all this while that this ‘saza’ was actually ‘maza’ for the body in our times. Holding one’s breath is another practice in yoga that is an excellent preparation for the worsening AQI in the Capital city. Simply, breathe in, breathe out, and learn to hold your breath. No air purifiers, or smog towers required!

Geetanjali Shree in her International Booker award winning novel ‘The Tomb of Sand’ (‘Ret Samadhi’ in the original Hindi) has an intriguing character called Overseas Son. He couldn’t smile or laugh despite practicing and contorting his face in front of a mirror and oftentimes scaring the delivery man with his pasted smile. He would have benefitted hugely by doing laughter yoga by learning to stretch his lips.