My greetings to all of you on the occasion of the International Day of Yoga!
I am delighted to join you virtually to celebrate the 6th Annual International Yoga Day.
At the outset, let me extend my heartiest congratulations to SPIC MACAY for the success of their virtual series 'ANUBHAV'.
True to its motto ‘Continuously spreading positivity through our priceless cultural heritage’, SPIC MACAY has been enriching the quality of formal education by increasing awareness about different aspects of Indian heritage and inspiring young minds to imbibe the priceless human values embedded in it.
I am happy to note that through SPIC MACAY, the most accomplished artistes of the country render programmes of Indian classical music and dance, folk, poetry, theatre, traditional paintings, crafts &Yoga primarily in schools and colleges.
I am sure that SPIC MACAY will continue inspiring young people to explore and experience the rich and diverse culture of India as well as the world.
I am hopeful that the beauty, grace, values and wisdom embodied in these arts will influence their way of life and thinking and inspire them to become better human beings.
My dear sisters and brothers,
During his proposal in 2014 to the UN to adopt an International Day of Yoga, the Prime Minister, Shri Narendrabhai Modi had concisely summed up the importance of Yoga to the world body. Describing Yoga as an “invaluable gift” of ancient Indian tradition, he said: “It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being”.
India’s proposal was endorsed by 175 nations and the UN, in a resolution on December 11, 2014, declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga.
Yoga, a unique gift of India to the world is now successfully transforming millions of lives around the globe.
‘Yoga’, which means ‘to join’ or ‘unite’, basically seeks to bring about a harmonious union of the mind and body. It is a science that emphasizes balance, poise, grace, equanimity, peace and harmony.
Yoga, a 5000 year old tradition, is not a mere workout. It is much more than that, it is a philosophy, a discipline. Yoga comprises different postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and meditation techniques.
All these components help in bringing about a positive transformation in the human body and mind in innumerable ways.
Yoga is also an approach to life which celebrates balance, not swinging to extreme positions but appreciating the subtle nuances of movement of the body to maintain poise and grace. As Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita “Samatvam Yoga Uchyate” (Yoga is Balance).
The first two steps of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga or Eight-Fold Yoga is 'Yama' and 'Niyama'. They deal with mental discipline. 'Saucha' which stands for cleanliness and purity comes under 'Niyama'.
The World Health Organization (WHO) in its resolution in 1984 accepted 'spiritual dimension' as a part of health. Earlier health was perceived in physical, mental and social terms. We have moved away from that perspective to a more holistic integrated view where different elements of human existence interact in diverse ways to contribute to the well being. This integrated view in which different components are joined together is the essence of yoga and this is the gift of ideas we have given to the world.
Yoga has now become a potent source of soft power in India’s diplomacy. The tremendous response to the ‘International Day of Yoga is a matter of delight.
We are happy that we have been able to unite the world for such a positive cause.
My dear sisters and brothers,
As we all know, this year the world is fighting one of the biggest public health crises-- the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed the world is going through challenging times and we simply cannot allow the pandemic to get the better of us. We have to unite and put up a stronger fight and to ensure that we are healthy, both physically and mentally.
Undoubtedly, these are stressful times in which most of us are compelled to stay at home, without the normal face-to-face interaction, physical exercise and recreational activities. Yoga can be an effective solution for the high-level of stress that the pandemic has created in our lives.
Yoga can help in dealing effectively with problems like depression, anxiety and stress, which have become all-pervasive due to modern lifestyle. I get deeply disturbed whenever I come across news reports of youngsters ending their lives, unable to cope with the modern-day pressures and stress. All such deaths are completely avoidable. Yoga and meditation can help in reducing stress greatly.
Yoga is one of the best options to improve the body’s immunity, particularly for the vulnerable ones like those suffering from asthma, hypertension and diabetes.
The pandemic is not the only health crisis that is threatening the wellbeing of the people. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 63% of all deaths in India in 2016 were because of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). Of these, the risk of premature deaths for those between the ages of 30 years and 70 years was 27% for males and 20% for females.
Yoga remains an incredibly simple but powerful instrument to prevent and control life style diseases. It is a relatively low-risk, high-yield approach to improving overall health and its full potential must be harnessed.
As India has a huge demographic advantage which can be converted into a dividend, we must do our best to ensure that our youngsters are physically, mentally and emotionally fit.
WHO also mentions Yoga as a means to improve health in its 'Global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030: more active people for a healthier world'.
Yoga as a mode of therapy, or YogChikitsa has now become extremely popular and a large number of studies and systematic reviews offer scientific evidence for its potential to treat a number of diseases.
We must undertake scientific experimentation on a much larger scale to further explore the immense possibilities of Yoga as a wellness solution.
Yoga has today become one of the biggest fitness movements across the globe.
The ancient heritage of India, Yoga has had an uninterrupted tradition and the onus of keeping this priceless tradition alive is on all of us. Our children must be introduced to Yoga at a young age.
With the educational institutions conducting only online classes in the wake of the pandemic, I would like to suggest that they could include yoga as part of online learning programmes.
I am glad that ‘UNICEF Kid Power’ has listed 13 Yoga stretches and poses for children.
I also applaud the government for launching programs like ‘Scheme for Voluntary Certification of Yoga Professionals’. Through the scheme, more professional Yoga teachers will be certified, increasing the spread and practice of Yoga.
Much more needs to be done to take the healing power of Yoga to all corners of the world and to all people. After all, ‘Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu’ has always been India’s mantra and prayer.
Initiatives like this virtual Yoga and Meditation Shivir are a step in the right direction. I hope that many more such initiatives will be conceived and realized in the time to come.
I once again congratulate SPIC MACAY for organizing this Shivir for the benefit of youth in such challenging times. I wish this noble initiative a grand success.