8 July 2015

Yoga: Stretching Across the Globe

'Yoga is mastery of the mind’ -Patanjali

An article by UNAI Intern Achuth Krishnan who reports "As an intern of the United Nations Academic Impact, I had the memorable opportunity to celebrate the first ever International Day of Yoga on 21 June, 2015 at the UN Headquarters in New York."



The UN honoured the Indian legacy of Yoga by proclaiming the 21st of June as the International Day of Yoga.  In the northern hemisphere, June 21st is the day of summer solstice - the longest day as well as the day that marks the beginning of a warm summer. It was on December 11, 2014, that India's Permanent Representative to the UN, Asoke Mukherji, presented in the UN General Assembly the draft resolution for holding an international yoga day. The resolution was passed unanimously, co-sponsored by a total of 175 nations. It had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UN General Assembly Resolution of such nature.

On 21 June, 2015, the global embrace of yoga was visible all the way from New York’s Times Square (it’s interesting that the New Yorkers practised yoga in an area commonly branded as a place of chaos) to China at the other end of the world. 

The United Nations and The Permanent Mission of India came together to celebrate the first ever International Day of Yoga at the United Nations Headquarters. The event was graced by the presence of Sam Kutesa, President of the sixty-ninth session of the General Assembly, Asoke Kumar Mukerji, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations, Tulsi  Gabbard, congress woman and representative from Hawaii, Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs of India, and his Excellency Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The event also hosted a practise session of Yoga under the guidance of world-renowned yogic Master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in which the UN Secretary General once again attempted his by-now famous “tree pose”. 

Yoga, a holistic practise which dates as far back as the pre-vedic times, is much more than a mere art of callisthenics. In its entirety, it touches upon the physical, mental, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of life. One of the earliest expositions on Yoga was written by the Indian sage, Patanjali. Yoga was systematically classified into eight stages by Patanjali -

  • Yama, which deals with one’s  morality and sense of integrity
  • Niyama, which deals with self-discipline and spiritual observances
  • Asana, which deals with practising postures
  • Pranayama, which deals with breath control
  • Pratyahara, which deals with the withdrawal from the organs of sense and action
  • Dharana, which deals with Meditation or contemplation
  • Dhyana, which deals with meditation or the uninterrupted flow of concentration
  • Samadhi, which deal with the complete absorption in super consciousness or divine mind

The United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) which has as its founding principles commitment to promoting inter-cultural dialogue and understanding, and the “unlearning” of intolerance through education, rejoiced as the world celebrated the International Day of Yoga. India’s stepping forward to share her inimitable cultural treasure with the world, and the world’s whole-hearted acceptance of it, emit new rays of hope across today’s world rampant with physical and spiritual disquiet. The world’s embrace of an ancient system of yogic practise which disciplines the body, mind and soul, for the well-being of the entire human race, bears testimony to the successful bourgeoning of inter-cultural dialogue and understanding among nations.

Let’s remember what the UN Secretary General said -“On this first-ever International Day of Yoga, let us see the benefits of this practice in terms of individual well-being as well as our collective efforts to improve public health, promote peaceful relations and usher in a life of dignity for all.”