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International Yoga Day

International Yoga Day 2021

Coinciding with the summer solstice, June 21 is observed as International Yoga Day, recognizing the many benefits of the ancient Indian practice of yoga. The year 2021 marks the 7th International Yoga Day.

The United Nations theme for this year is “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family”, which takes into account the social distancing measures announced by most countries; emphasising the importance of maintaining good health.

The UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga by passing a resolution on December 11, 2014, during the 69th session of the General Assembly. At the session, Narendra Modi had said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action … a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” This resolution can be viewed as a triumphant moment for Indian soft power as it received support from 177 nations, the highest number of co-sponsors for any UN Resolution. Currently, countries ranging from Canada to the USA participate in this event.

The Yoga Day celebrations in 2015 at Rajpath in New Delhi, with Modi and other dignitaries in attendance, had created two Guinness World Records, performing around 21 yoga asanas. The first record was set for housing 35,985 people and being the world’s largest yoga session. The second was for having the most number (84) of nationalities participating in it.

International Yoga Day 2021

The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of a person's body and consciousness,” the United Nations website says. “Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. Defined as the science of bringing together the human and divine from the Sanskrit word yuj, essentially, yoga is the training of the body and mind to stay healthy and tranquil and, eventually for those who are ready to go all the way, recognise the divine element within the core of one’s consciousness. This is the state called “samadhi”.

Now, reserving the state of samadhi for those rare ones who wish to spiritually evolve, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that even for those who are not interested in the spiritual and metaphysical, yoga has much to offer in terms of good physical health and mental health.

A few years ago, the WHO defined mind health and mental well-being as an integral part of sound health in human beings — an idea which the yogis have believed in for thousands of years.

According to its famous practitioner BKS Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

In its ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ from 2019, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) lists Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi, Bandhas and Mudras, Satkarmas, Yuktahara, Mantra-japa, Yukta-karma among popular yoga ‘sadhanas’.

International Yoga Day 2021

The AYUSH protocol describes the folding-hands logo of Yoga Day as reflecting “the union of individual consciousness with that of universal consciousness, a perfect harmony between mind and body, man and nature, the holistic approach to health and well-being. The brown leaves in the logo symbolize the earth element, the green leaves of nature, blue the fire element while the sun symbolises the source of energy and inspiration.”

Given that June 21 is the International Day of Yoga, as declared by the United Nations General Assembly, it would be in order to take a look at the science of yoga. Yoga is one of the treasures that has been given to the world by this ancient land called Bharat — India. As early as the Upanishadic times — at least a thousand years ago — the science of yoga was taught and practised by the sages.