On December 11, 2014, at the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his UN General Assembly address on September 27, 2014, United Nations declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga (IDY) or World Yoga Day. What made this resolution global and spectacular is its universality and acceptability. The world is divided by geography and united by yoga is evident from the fact that more than 177 countries supported International Day of Yoga whereas 175 countries co-sponsored the resolution, which is the highest number of co-sponsors in any United National General Assembly resolutions of this kind till date. The initiative was proposed and implemented by a country in the UN body in less than 90 days, which is also the first time in the history of the UN General Assembly. PM Modi has wonderfully accomplished the vision within six months of being in power what we could not accomplish in the last 73 years since independence: ‘true recognition of our 5000 years old heritage of yoga’. He has truly summarised by stating that ‘yoga is a symbol of universal aspiration for health and wellbeing. It is health assurance in zero budget. Yoga has shown the way the world from illness to wellness.’
Yoga is not a religion. It is a science of wellbeing, youthfulness and seamless integration of mind, body and soul. It reflects harmony and peace for humanity, which is the message of Yoga to the world. It is the journey of the self, to the self and through the self.
Maharishi Patanjali is known for his treatise on Yoga, entitled “Patanjali Yoga Sutra”. Aurobindo is credited with translating the essence of Yoga and Yogic practices from celebrated Hindu scriptures like Bhagwad Gita and the Upanishads. BS Iyengar and Maharishi Paramhansa Yogananda are widely regarded for disseminating the important knowledge of Yoga around the world through spiritual scriptures and by their disciplined and inspirational lives. Swami Vivekananda is credited for being the greatest proponent of Yoga in the West. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. His words on Indian philosophy and spiritualism are still resonating in Chicago.
Today Yoga is considered to be one of the most successful products of globalisation. It is the most widely celebrated festival about human-consciousness and wellbeing. Yoga festivals are organised all over the world irrespective of region and religion. It is the most secular chord today connecting the divided world with a focus of health and happiness. When the world falls apart Yoga brings people, family, society and nations together have the most potent unifying force in the world.
It is heartening to see that Yoga is the most commonly used complementary health approach in the west and the world is realising the benefits of Yoga in their lives. The report published by the US National Library of Medicine discovered that Yoga combined with meditation helped to delay the ageing process and prevent the onset of many diseases. Practising Yoga can enhance the mood of a person and also increases one’s life span. Yoga not only helps in treating physical health but also the emotional and mental wellbeing. It not only adds years to your life but life to your years. Research findings show that practising Yoga causes molecular changes that encourage the circulation of immune cells. Yoga also helps ease depression. Yoga has always been an integral part of Health and Physical Education. The world has adopted a holistic approach towards health and Yoga will be part of an ‘experiential learning’ rather than a part of instructive education. There is even talk that Yoga could become a competitive sport at the Olympics after the US successfully registered the discipline as an official sport.
From Hollywood to Hardwar, ordinary people to celebrities, everyone has taken serious note of the benefits of practising Yoga amid the pandemic crisis. I belong to the Himalayan state Devbhoomi Uttarakhand which has been the cradle of Yoga and Ayurveda. The whole world is looking up to us for seeking the course in the pandemic crisis. When the world is confined to the four walls, Yoga has emerged as the most effective health tool to enhance immunity and maintain a balance of life. Ideally, we would have been celebrating the International Yoga Day with fervour like previous years but due to COVID-19, we are expected to adopt social distancing and celebrate the Yoga Day with our family in restricted domains. I appeal to the entire nations and world community not to allow COVID-19, diminish the spirit of World Yoga Day which we have achieved in the last five years. Various reports and case studies have proved that Yoga and meditation is the best therapy to counter the psychosocial impact of COVID19. Yoga has various “pranayama” that strengthen the respiratory system. Studies need to be conducted as to how “Pranayam” can counter the effects of Novel Coronavirus. Yoga is truly a panacea for community, immunity and unity. Yoga, Ayurveda and Adhaytam have been our message to the global community for ages and perfectly relevant today. Yoga is undoubtedly the gateway to global peace and harmony.
(Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ is Human Resource Development Minister, Government of India)
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