International Yoga Day A Global Phenomenon

Soft Diplomacy By Sanjiv Kakkar

World Yoga Day, now an annual event on 21 June, commemorates this ancient science which India shares with the world. Yoga is a scientific system which goes back thousands of years, and it is fitting that in the course of time the world recognises this and celebrates alongside.

“I would like to thank UN for declaring June 21st, the longest day as World Yoga Day and especially the Prime Minister of India, who has made extra efforts to bring Yoga to the main stream. I would also like to acknowledge the Yoga teachers and Yoga schools which have been striving so hard to make people understand the benefits of Yoga, Though Yoga was born in the Indian sub-continent, it belongs to the world.”

International Yoga day was celebrated the world over, in different terrains and climates, often in iconic locations, but with the same spirit: this is noteworthy. Millions of Yoga enthusiasts joined in the celebrations of the second International Day of Yoga, 2016. People from different backgrounds, cultures, and social strata experienced the universality of Yoga not just as a physical exercise but as a total union of body, mind and spirit. In a moment of pride for Indians, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of ‘The Art of Living’ inaugurated the International Day of Yoga Celebrations at the European Parliament, Brussels.

World Yoga Day, now an annual event on 21 June, commemorates this ancient science which India shares with the world. Yoga is a scientific system which goes back thousands of years, and it is fitting that in the course of time the world recognises this and celebrates alongside. It is relevant that any activity related to yoga would necessarily be in the spirit of celebration, for ultimately yoga leads to celebration of spirituality and peace!

There are myriad definitions of yoga in the many ancient text, which have miraculously survived. If we search for an ‘origin’ we are misled. Maharshi Patanjali, generally termed as the father of yoga, codified what seems to have been a vast body of knowledge, and he did so through a series of aphorisms or sutras. There are other texts as well, such as the Yogasara Upanishad, and of course very sacred texts such as the Bhagavad Gita also have verses on yoga.

Yoga makes us healthy, happy, and we feel connected with nature and with people, with all the blessed diversity of creation. Sri Sri has spelled out what are the benefits of yoga: “a disease-free body, a stress-free mind, a concept-free intellect, a trauma-free memory and an ego that embraces all: these are the birthright of every individual.” And all of this yoga helps us to achieve, for yoga impacts all these dimensions within ourselves: from the level of body, through the breath to more subtle aspects of mind, and intellect and memory and ego.

Yoga covers all the dimensions, from the relatively gross dimension of body to the most subtle aspects of our self which are accessed through meditation. Yoga includes asanas or postures but yoga is not merely asana; and these yogic postures bring wellness not only to the body but also to the mind. Herein lays another secret of yoga: the importance of breath. Yogic breathing or pranayama has myriad techniques, and deep rhythmical breathing is good for physical and mental health and well being. But we can observe, also, at a more subtle level, that the breath connects body and mind. The mind is much more subtle than the body and it serves as a bridge. A simple experiment can illustrate this; simply observe your breath when you experience different emotions, such as happiness, anger or sadness. The rhythm of breath changes with different emotions; when we are upset we breather faster; when we are calm and happy, we have deep rhythmical breaths. So, by breathing in certain rhythms we can release emotions and experience happiness.

Thus, yoga is always accompanied with celebration, caring and sharing and a sense of oneness with all. In this spirit, International Yoga Day is celebrated all over the world! It is a coming together, in peace and celebration; it is a celebration of body, mind and spirit. That is why it evokes such enthusiasm. Of the many definitions of yoga we can take note of one here from the Bhagavad Gita – Yoga karmasu kaushalam: Yoga is skill in action. When our body is fit and our mind is steady and our breath is without quiver and our spirits are high, only then can we take wise and effective actions. Yoga does this. That is why meditation is such an important component of yoga, alongside asanas and pranayama.

Like everything fine in this world, practice makes perfect. So let’s get started!

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Diplomatist Magazine was launched in October of 1996 as the signature magazine of L.B. Associates (Pvt) Ltd, a contract publishing house based in Noida, a satellite town of New Delhi, India, the National Capital.

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