“By proclaiming 21 June as the International Day of Yoga, the General Assembly of the United Nations has recognized the holistic benefits of this timeless practice and its inherent compatibility with the principles and values of the United Nations.” Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General, United Nations.
In December 2014, the 193-member United Nations General Assembly approved by consensus a resolution commemorating June 21st as the International Day of Yoga. The resolution was introduced in September 2014 by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi: During his inaugural address to the world body, PM Modi stated that …”yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, and harmony with nature. It also offers a holistic approach to health and well-being. Not only exercise, yoga is a means to discover oneself, the world and the nature…”
What Is Yoga?
In the West, yoga is depicted in the media as elaborate physical postures performed by young, men and women in stylish yoga apparel. These representations fail to show the full intention, goals and benefits of yoga. Yoga is not simply a practice aimed at physical mastery for its own sake; it is so much more than just an exercise.
Derived from the Sanskrit word, yoga means “to unite”. Yoga is a 6000 year old Indian body of knowledge aimed at harmonizing the body with the mind and breath. This is accomplished through various breathing techniques, yoga postures, and meditation.
The postures (known as asana in Sanskrit) aim to strengthen the body. Asanas along with meditation, harmonize the body with the breath (known as pranayama in Sanskrit) in order to attain deep states of meditation (Samadhi). The purpose of this kind of meditative awareness is to experience, practice, create unity & harmony with the mind, body, emotions, spirit and one’s physical surroundings & nature. In fact, yoga is a whole practice of life and living: how we treat others, and the respect we have for our bodies and the world around us. It is a holistic way of life that integrates all elements of the ancient knowledge of yoga, to unite the body, mind and spirit. Yoga restores balance by helping to strengthen our bodies, calm our minds, regain our focus and improve self-awareness.
Ultimately, the aim of yoga is to develop ourselves from the inside and outside, promote better awareness and mindfulness of the choices we make in life. It is believed that yoga is the secret to better health and greater sense of happiness.
Ayurveda: The Ancient Indian Science of Life
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian system of natural and holistic medicine. Ayurveda means “the science of life” (in Sanskrit “ayur” means “life” and “veda” means science”). Ayurveda focuses on health promotion and prevention of disease. While yoga is an integral part of Ayurveda, food is another essential part of this practice. It is commonly said that ‘you are what you eat’ and Ayurveda notes that the food we eat has a major impact on our body, mind and emotions. Ayurvedic diet consists of foods that are easy to digest like fresh vegetables and fruits, freshly cooked whole foods, nuts, lentils and legumes.
A popular misconception of yoga is that it is like going to the gym or working out. In reality, yoga is taught by a trained teacher who has studied yoga for as long as ten years. It is a lineage that is passed from teacher to student and is considered lifelong learning where teachers have spent many years dedicated to learning yoga and to their own yoga practice before sharing with others.
Yoga is For Everyone
Yoga has never been alien to us; it has always been a part of our lives. We have been doing it since we were babies! Yoga works for people of all ages and fitness levels – from people engaged in desk jobs to professional athletes to people looking to lose weight. Regular practice of yoga has shown to bring remarkable life changes. Practitioners say that since they had started practicing, their lives have changed for the better as they feel healthier, happier and are living with reduced anxiety, stress and increased tolerance & mindfulness.
Research on Yoga
Significant research has been undertaken on yoga which has proven that yoga is beneficial on both physical and mental health. It has shown that the biological mechanisms of practicing yoga have an almost immediate impact on gene expression, particularly in immune cells. It has also shown that yoga is linked not only to lower stress levels, but also to bone health, reduced back pain, and relief from depression, normalized blood pressure, strengthened immunity, lower risk factors for heart disease, and countless other health benefits.
By Reeta Bhatia
Reeta works at the UN is a yoga practitioner and a volunteer with the Art of Living Foundation, an international not-for-profit organization undertaking educational & humanitarian initiatives, and teaching yoga in more than 150 countries.
To celebrate the 1st International Day of Yoga, a free yoga, pranayama and meditation class will be held on June 21, from 9a.m.-10.30a.m. at la Promenade des Vielles-Murailles, Nyon (close to Chateau Nyon), overlooking the Lake and mountains. All are welcome. Bring along a yoga mat.
Come celebrate the joy of Yoga. ALL are WELCOME!
Bring along your yoga mat & enjoy a free yoga class!
la Promenade des Vielles-Murailles (next to l’Esplanade des Marronniers)
For information (079) 475 5579; email@example.com
**In case of rain, venue is Yoga Temple, 4 route de Divonne, Nyon (near the Gare)
International yoga day events in Switzerland – International yoga day website (in English)
International yoga day at the Indian embassy in Bern – Embassy website (in English)
Indian government launches yoga diplomacy – Tribune de Geneve (In French)