6th International Day of Yoga – Celebrating holistic health

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, addressing the 69th session of the General Assembly, 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 exercising; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga on 11 December 2014 by resolution 69/131 and this year the India and the world will be celebrating the 6 th  International Day of Yoga.

As is well-known, Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that has been part of the Indian culture for thousands of years. Yoga comes from the word ‘Yog’ which means Union – union of the individual consciousness with universal consciousness.
International Day of Yoga is a manifestation of the desire to take the flame of holistic health through yogic practices for the benefit of entire mankind. India has always pursued the dictum of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – ‘The whole world is one family’ as one of the guiding principles for its statecraft and in its international relations.

The several scholarship programs run by the Government of India – whether under the umbrella of ‘Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation’ sharing the expertise of its premium institutes by training nationals of other nations or enrolling foreign nationals for
Under Graduate, Post Graduate and Doctoral level studies under Indian Council of Cultural Relations scholarships – are expressions of a ‘Cultural Yogic doctrine’ which are enmeshed with the Indian philosophy.

Yoga Sutras (core defining principles of Yoga) have defined the eight limbs of Yoga as Yama (abstinences), Niyama (observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath practices), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption). Each of these principles is complete on its own while supporting all others in achieving a balanced state of mind and body.  Yoga guides to a complete way of life; enabling a better understanding of the Mother Nature, bringing peace to mind and enhancing cooperation with other living beings on this planet. Modern lifestyle has heightened the impact of certain non-communicable diseases in societies, like diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and stress related disorders.

These are associated with the increased nature of sedentary lifestyles, desk-oriented nature of work, and virtually ceaseless desires. Technology has been a boon to our lives in easing day-to-day functions, bringing conveniences to our finger-tips (or rather a voice
command away); however the downside has been the reduced activity level, poor posture, and a gallery of distractions pulling on the strained threads of attention. The evolutionary processes of human body adaptations work on a much longer time-scale than the demands currently placed on them, owing to complete change in lifestyles. On the one hand, human society has successfully cured or controlled several ailments with its medical advancements (in allopathy), there has been a steep rise in ‘lifestyle ailments’, primarily psychosomatic.

Indian tradition of Yoga and Ayurvedic healing practices which has its foundations on the understanding of different elements of nature in its various forms has been a part of the Indian civilization since ages. The benefits of Yoga Asanas (postures), Dhyana (meditation) and other yogic practices in improving flexibility, muscle tone, concentration, mental acuity, balance of body and mind have been analytically and critically examined in scientific laboratories the world over and gained acceptance for their efficacy in improving human being’s physical and mental faculties, building immunity, reducing stress and psychogenic disorders.

Yoga brings a balance to one’s perspective towards life, teaches respect towards others, reduces anger and helps in building positive energies, which lead people to a collaborative path. The importance of Emotional intelligence and its contribution to health has been widely acclaimed. The balance attained with yogic practices thus significantly assists in strengthening body’s immune systems. Ayurveda, in Sanskrit, means ‘The Science of Life’, it is a system of healing based on balancing the energies. Recognizing the uniqueness of each person, it is based on close attention to right thinking, diet, lifestyle and the use of herbs. Ayurveda complements the yogic way of life as a preventative method of staying healthy by use of natural herbs and diet.  Ayurvedic medicines have been a part of Indian traditional healing system, proven in their usage by millions of adherents who use these medicines to bolster their immune systems. Since Ayurvedic medicines are based on natural herbs, their benefits are miraculous, depending on the metabolic constitution of each person and the competence of the Ayurvedic practitioner.

In the present perspective, COVID-19 pandemic has globally disturbed the daily rhythm of life. This disease has brought unfathomable suffering in its wake; affecting millions of people, stopping economic activities and bringing international travel to a grinding halt. This is a period in human history, when all the nations will have to combine their efforts to bring the pandemic under control. This disease has also highlighted the importance of having a strong immune response system in our bodies to fight infections. It has shown us the importance of respecting the environment and other living creatures on Earth; to co-exist peacefully and prosper.

International Day of Yoga gives the global community an opportunity to express its confidence in the indomitable human spirit and to achieve ‘holistic health’ for all.  Humanity has always evolved from its past crisis, ultimately leading to the betterment of the world
and the planet. The technologies available to mankind have been enabling in its quest for further improvement.  This International Day of Yoga, the world is once again welcome to embrace ‘Yoga’ as a way of life, even though it amounts to practicing at homes and
participating through digital platforms.

In the case of Botswana, it is heartening to note that imbibing the practice of Yoga fits well in the country’s National Vision 2036 bearing in mind its quest for Human and Social Development under the pillar of Health and Wellness, and it is in this context we invite
Batswana to join the 6th International Day of Yoga and experience the day of upliftment in harmony with the nature, as they have been doing all these years.

Understanding the importance of evolution of events towards digital platforms maintaining social distancing norms, Government of India also launched a campaign on ‘My Life – My Yoga’ for every person to share his/her ‘yoga videos’ through social media platforms, and the High Commission of India urges the Yoga enthusiasts in Botswana to participate in this way and hashtag #MyLifeMyYoga(Botswana) with their videos on social media (details available on www.mylifemyyoga2020.com/home ).

On our part, High Commission of India in Gaborone will be holding 6th International Day of
Yoga celebrations on virtual digital platform of Microsoft Teams on Sunday, 21 June 2020
(from 10 to 11 AM).  All are welcome to join the link https://tinyurl.com/y8qavjdl
Have a blissful Yoga practice at home…
© Dr Rajesh Ranjan is the High Commissioner of India to Botswana