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Yoga, a protective shield for health at all times

The unabated enthusiasm that is building up around International Day of Yoga (IDY) 2021 is both heartening and rare, at the same time. This is rare because it will be the second year in a row when there will be no major outdoor activity or mass congregation for IDY around the globe due to the pandemic, and yet people in large numbers are embracing Yoga from the quietude of their homes.

The Prime Minister’s appeal in 2014 to the world community to embrace Yoga was indeed a bold and visionary step.”Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition”, he had told the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014. “It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature and a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with ourselves, the world and Nature”.  He further urged the world community to work towards adopting an International Yoga Day. Heading to his call, on 11 December 2014the United Nations General Assembly declared the 21st of June of every year as the International Day of Yoga (IDY). This has led to the observation of IDY across the globe through various Yoga and wellness-related activities and programmes. Over the last six years of observation of IDY, Yoga has emerged as a significant public health movement across the world. This has been particularly true in India where, where the role being assigned to Yoga in the policy and practice of public health has significantly grown.

India plays a pivotal role in the global observation of IDY. The Ministry of AYUSH, the nodal Ministry for Yoga, as well as the Missions of India abroad support Yoga-related training programmes and other activities across the world. Ayush Ministry came up with a Common Yoga Protocol (CYP) in 2015, to facilitate harmonious observation of IDY. The CYP is a 45-minute sequence of appropriate Yoga drills carefully put together by experts, which can be practiced by the young and the old without any hassles. It was designed based on the traditions of Yoga and the available scientific inputs on different practices of Yoga. It is a testimony to the inherent merits of CYP that in a short period of six years, this protocol has emerged as one of the most widely accepted formats of daily practice of Yoga.

Building upon the huge wave of public enthusiasm generated by IDY observation, the Ministry of Ayush initiated many reforms to promote the Yoga sector. Setting up a national level advisory body called National Board for Promotion and Development of Yoga and Naturopathy was one of the basic initiatives. The Board, with thought leaders from the sector, gives policy-level advice for promotion of Yoga. Other major initiatives of the Ministry included steps for skill development as a means to ensure quality in Yoga training, Promoting evidence – based research in Yoga in collaboration with reputed institutions like AIIMS, promoting Yogasana as a competitive sport and widening the access to Yoga- learning and treatments through the network of 1.25 lakh Health & Wellness Centres.

The Ministry of AYUSH and Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports recently came together to grant formal recognition to Yogasana as a competitive sport. Yogasana represents the physical dimension of Yoga, and is amenable to the format of a competitive sport. Thanks to its basic strengths, Yogasana has the potential to emerge into a global sporting discipline. This will ensure new technologies and new strategies being inducted into the discipline. Our athletes and officials will be able to build fruitful and fulfilling careers in this field.

The decision of the Government to operationalise 1.25 lakh Health & Wellness Centres (HWCs) under the Ayushman Bharat Scheme is significant for the development of Yoga, as there will be a significant component of Yoga in the activity. This decision will lead to the creation of country-wide Yoga assets, as Yoga will be integrated into all 1.25 lakh HWCs. An adequate number of Yoga professionals will be engaged for this.

The IDY observation has been a phenomenon of high visibility. As per self-reported figures, at least 12.06 crore people joined the harmonious Yoga practice on IDY-2020 from their homes, despite the shadow of the pandemic looming large. The impact of the IDY observations over the years, however, goes beyond the participation numbers and has been felt in multiple areas. For example, the demand for yoga teachers has gone up significantly during these years. As per Tourism statistics from the Ministry of Tourism, the foreign inflow of tourists who came to India for yoga training has significantly gone up after 2015 IDY with an increase of 37.4% by 2018, i.e., over four years. The healthcare industry has also gained from the increased interest in Yoga, and have been offering more holistic solutions to health-seekers. There is no doubt the pandemic has inhibited these sectors, but trends prior to 2020 certainly bode well for the future.

Yoga not only improves overall health and immunity but also contributes to a quicker recovery of patients from diseases. In the current scenario where large sections of the population are enduring stress and anxiety-related challenges due to Covid-19, Yoga offers effective solutions. Thus, in these troubled times when wellness is a goal for all of us, “Yoga for Wellness” becomes an appropriate and natural theme for IDY-2021.

That the health benefits of Yoga are numerous and multi-faceted is now widely accepted. But then, good health is just the beginning of the rewards offered by Yoga. Let this Yoga Day be the starting point of making Yoga an integral part of our lifestyle. Let us also strive to encourage our friends and family to adopt it, and become beneficiaries of this zero-cost health assurance activity.



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Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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