The power of yoga is the power of unity for a healthier and prosperous future for all and it is here to stay, President of the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly Abdulla Shahid has said, underlining that the practice offers a holistic approach at a time when the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered a deluge of anxiety and depression.
Mr. Shahid was addressing a special commemorative event organised by the Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. on Monday.
He said that the celebration of 8th International Yoga Day on Tuesday under the theme ‘Yoga for Humanity’ could not have come at a more opportune time as the COVID-19 pandemic has upended lives and livelihoods, triggering a deluge of anxiety and depression.
“The practice of yoga serves as a holistic approach to the physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being of humanity. It simply works,” he said, addressing U.N. dignitaries, diplomats and staff at the expansive North Lawn in the U.N. headquarters.
Mr. Shahid, who began his address with a ‘Namaste', said that yoga is all about unity, connecting the mind, body and spirit.
He called on all to continue to nurture their minds, commit to more physical activities and practice yoga to soothe “our tired, weary spirits.
"The power of yoga is the power of unity for a healthier, happier and prosperous future for all. It is here to stay," he said.
The International Yoga Day celebrations returned to an in-person format at the U.N. headquarters this year after two years of virtual commemorations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
India’s Permanent Representative to the U.N. Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti said that during the difficult times of the pandemic, millions embraced yoga as their companion to stay healthy, overcome depression and mental anxiety and it is in recognition of this important role of yoga that the theme for this year's celebration is ‘Yoga for Humanity’.
“Yoga can also be an integral part of our build back better strategy,” Mr. Tirumurti said, adding that the essence of yoga is balance, not just within the body or that between the mind and the body but also balance in the human relationship with planet Earth.
Addressing the commemoration, Bhutan’s Permanent Representative at the U.N. Ambassador Doma Tshering, a yoga practitioner herself, said that yoga may have had its roots in the rich and ancient traditions of India, but today it has transcended borders and is truly India's gift to humanity.
Ms. Tshering said the practice of yoga is well known and loved in her country for its multifaceted health benefits and for the values it inculcates amongst practitioners. She added that the citizens of Bhutan believe that yoga evokes greater happiness for the individual, the community and consequently for the planet.
“Yoga is described as a tradition that seeks to unify the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical well being,” she said.
Mr. Tirumurti referred to the 'Lifestyle for the Environment’ LIFE movement launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi where people all over the world can contribute to the health of planet Earth by adopting a sustainable lifestyle.
“Yoga can contribute in creating a community of individuals who embrace simplicity and make conscious sustainable lifestyle choices,” Mr. Tirumurti said.
Mr. Shahid, who is also the Maldivian Minister of Foreign Affairs, underlined that yoga is the ultimate energiser as it can be practiced anywhere, anytime and requires no financial investment.
“It is a powerful way for people of all ages and status, regardless of colour, ethnicity or gender to improve overall physical and mental health and healing,” he said.
Ms. Tshering noted that the inextricable link between good mental health, physical well being and sustainable development was brought into sharp focus during the pandemic.
“And at no other time was there a greater need for the physical and mental nourishment that yoga offers,” she said, adding that in the face of depression, anxiety and loneliness, brought about by extended periods of lockdown and isolation, the practice of yoga offered a “lifeline” to better physical health and mental wellbeing for millions across the world.
She also referred to the World Health Organization’s latest World Mental Health Report that states that nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from some form of mental disorder, including one in seven teenagers.
“Against such sombering findings, the need for good practices and holistic solutions for health and well-being, accessible to all, becomes even more compelling,” she said.
Bhutan was among the 176 nations at the U.N. that in 2014 had supported India’s resolution that proclaimed June 21 every year as the International Day of Yoga.
Noting that improving global health is a long-term objective at the U.N., Mr. Shahid said that the celebration of Yoga Day is also an opportunity to promote more sustainable lifestyles and a healthier outlook on life.
“Practicing yoga also helps us achieve the Sustainable Development Goals particularly Goal 3 on good health and wellbeing.”
Mr. Shahid added that as an ancient practice and philosophy that dates back over 5,000 years ago, yoga continues to grow in popularity all over the world.
“It plays a major role in bringing people together with compassion, kindness and humility. It builds resilience among people, fostering a sense of unity and purpose.”
As part of the 2022 Yoga Day celebrations, the Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. will also present a digital exhibition ‘The World of Yoga’ from June 21 to July 1.
The exhibition offers a glimpse into the annual celebrations of the day and presents a standardised set of yoga practices, called the 'Common Yoga Protocol,' a starting point for beginners to get inducted into the highly rewarding world of yoga.
The commemoration on Monday ‘Yoga with Masters’ included a series of guided demonstrations that relate to various facets of yoga, a yoga dance by the group Indian Raga, Pranayama breathing by Isha Yoga, a series of Yoga Asanas by Bhakti Center and a meditation workshop by Integral Yoga Institute.
Several yoga events have also been planned by the Consulate General of India in New York to mark the day on Tuesday, including a grand commemoration at Times Square that will be addressed by Swami Avdheshanand and Consul General Randhir Jaiswal.