What is Yoga and why do we celebrate it?
Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.
Today it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity.
Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131.
The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.
The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly, in which he 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.”
The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.” In this regard, the World Health Organization has also urged its member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.
But yoga is more than a physical activity. In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. 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.”
2020 Theme: “Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home”
While the social distancing measures adopted by countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down yoga studios and other communal spaces, yoga practitioners have turned to home practice and online yoga resources. Yoga is a powerful tool to deal with the stress of uncertaintly and isolation, as well as to maintain physical well-being. The United Nations offers yoga resources to its personnel and others on the Coronavirus portal’s section on Wellness. The World Health Organization 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.
With schools closed and summer break activities cancelled, parents may find it challenging to keep their children physically active. Yoga can help. UNICEF says kids can practice many yoga poses without any risk and get the same benefits that adults do. These benefits include increased flexibility and fitness, mindfulness and relaxation.
2020 virtual event
The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations invites you to an online celebration of the 6th annual International Yoga Day on 19 June 2020, from 3 to 4:30 pm EST broadcast on UN WebTV.