International Yoga Day
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.
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’.
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.
This brings us to the present phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, which we are still passing through, though, there are clear signs that the wave is slowly and surely curving downwards. Today, yoga is an international buzzword. From Timbuktu to Hollywood, yoga is practised with enthusiasm.
Thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on whose proposal the United Nations in 2015 declared June 21, which marks the summer solstice (the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere), the International Yoga Day and made the world realise and experience the prowess of the ancient Indian science of holistic well-being.
The interest in yoga in India and across the world has grown in Himalayan proportions since the Narendra Modi government came to power. The stupendous efforts made by Prime Minister Modi, who himself is a regular practitioner of yoga, in boosting the awareness of the ancient science of yoga has made it popular among the masses.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing an event marking the seventh International Yoga Day said, “Today, when the whole world is combating the coronavirus disease pandemic, yoga remains a ray of hope.” The Prime Minister also launched a mYoga app that will be available worldwide. “In collaboration with WHO, India has taken another important step. We will be launching the mYoga app which will have yoga training videos in different languages for people across the world. This will help us achieve our ‘One World, One Health’ motto,” he added.
The Ministry of Culture has planned to celebrate International Day of Yoga at 75 cultural heritage locations across the country. While Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism, Prahlad Singh Patel would be performing yoga at Delhi’s Red Fort on June 21, other senior officials will conduct yoga camps at other monuments and forts including the Agra Fort, Shanti Stupa in Ladakh, Ellora Caves in Maharashtra and Nalanda in Bihar. The extensive drive has been titled “Yoga, An Indian Heritage”, and is part of the India’s “Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav” campaign.
The interest in yoga has grown in leaps and bounds. It has become a global trend. And we are sure seeing the positive results of yogic practice, its popularity will grow further.Thanks once again to Narendra Modi for his exemplary effort in promoting yoga which actually is promoting health and well-being, a fundamental right of every citizen.
Enjoy good health and happiness on this International Day of Yoga.