Some women doing yoga pose using the hammocks during the Anti-Gravity yoga class at Svarga e-Motion Sanctuary at Dharmawangsa Square, Jakarta, Saturday, April 18, 2015. Anti-Gravity Yoga or "aerial yoga", is a new type of yoga, originating in New York but now being practised in several countries, which combines the traditional yoga poses, pilates and dance with the use of a hammock. (JG Photo/Jurnasyanto Sukarno)

Significance of International Day of Yoga

BY :RAGHU GURURAJĀ 

JUNE 17, 2021

As the land of yoga, it is no brainer that India is leading global efforts to popularize its universal appeal and demonstrated health benefits. When the Indian prime minister introduced the draft resolution to establish the International Day of Yoga in 2014 at the 69th session of the General Assembly, he stated that "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 nature." 

No wonder, the resolution sailed through the United Nations (UN) with the support of a whopping 177 member states, including Indonesia. Consequently the UN unanimously adopted Resolution No 69/13 on Dec. 11, 2014  to proclaim June 21 as the International Day of Yoga (IDY).

The first IDY was inaugurated on June 21, 2015 by the Prime Minister of India. Not only did the event create two Guinness World Records for the most number of people practicing yoga in a single sitting (35,985), but also for the most number of nationalities (84) participating across the globe. The event was recognized and celebrated across 170 countries including the USA, China and Canada. Since then, this day has been observed across the world by an ever increasing group of people who have embraced yoga and have acquired the character of a mass movement. 

This day serves as a reminder to the people of the world to make healthier choices in life by following yoga to foster good health and also a spirit of harmony. The observance of IDY has created opportunities for people across the globe not only to highlight the obvious health benefits that yoga  brings and the well being it generates, but also spreading goodwill and a spirit of brotherhood.

Recognizing the obvious health benefits of yoga, the World Health Organization made a clarion call to all member states to encourage their citizens to follow yoga in their daily lives so that physical inactivity is reduced.  

The UN resolution on IDY calls upon all countries, international and regional organizations, as well as civil society and individuals, to observe the International Day of Yoga to raise awareness of the benefits of practising yoga. The observation of IDY has been structured to be in alignment with the UN resolution. 

Considering that yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being, the activities of IDY are designed in such a way that the interest of the participants in pursuing yoga does not end with the IDY, but sustains even beyond. It has been observed that a sizable number of people who start learning CYP in the spirit of participation in IDY continue to pursue yoga even beyond IDY. The IDY also presents an occasion for all the universities and schools to engage in yoga as part of their daily academic life.

In India, the Ministry of AYUSH  (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy) is the premier agency that is tasked with the development of education, research and propagation of indigenous alternative medicine systems in India. Yoga being part of this effort, AYUSH has introduced a 45 minutes Common Yoga Protocol (CYP) as a standard template to be used across the globe during IDY celebrations. 

The CYP has been uniquely designed to suit both yoga professionals and amateurs. It comprises an ideal assemblage of asanas (yogic postures) for inducting beginners to yoga. Designed meticulously for people from various age groups and all walks of life  to participate and reap the health benefits of yoga, the CYP protocol has emerged as a popular introductory yoga programme. 

Yoga in Indonesia

Yoga is not entirely alien to Indonesians. It has been imbibed in some form or the other from ancient times when Hinduism got introduced in Indonesia.  In the last few years, several Indonesian citizens have availed of Government of India Yoga scholarships to learn yoga in India and also on self-financing basis. But the advent of IDY has seen a spectacular growth in yoga schools and studios in Indonesia, all of whom have played an important role in the IDY celebrations organized by the Embassy of India in Jakarta or by its consulates in Bali and Medan. Many schools are running a very successful daily programme  as a business venture and yoga in general is witnessing a steady popularity in Indonesia.  

IDY during Pandemic

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic across the world,  a new approach was adopted in 2020 IDY celebrations which was a hybrid of digital and limited ground activity. 

The theme for 2020 IDY was aptly named  ‘Yoga at Home, Yoga with Family’. This year’s (2021) IDY theme is “ Be with Yoga, Be at Home''. Since the pandemic continues to loom large, the approach to IDY 2021 would be one of caution and care, but significant focus continues to be made on awareness and mobilization through digital media platforms. Depending on local conditions, the CYP, which is available on public domain, could be easily performed by everyone at their homes and at their convenience.

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Raghu Gururaj is the Consul General of India to Sumatra who currently lives in Medan. 

The views expressed in this article belong to the author.

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