United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged everyone to embrace healthier choices and lifestyles and to commit to unity with other human beings, regardless of ethnicity, faith, age, gender identity or sexual orientation.
“Practicing yoga can also help raise awareness of our role as consumers of the planet's resources and as individuals with a duty to respect and live in peace with our neighbours,” Mr. Ban said, marking the second International Day of Yoga, since the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last year dedicating 21 June to the practice. “All these elements are essential to building a sustainable future of dignity and opportunity for all,” he added.
Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India and is now practiced in various forms around the world. The word 'yoga' derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.
This year's observance of the International Day highlights the important role healthy living plays in the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted last year by all UN Member States.
Noting the benefits of yoga, the Secretary-General explained: “Physical inactivity is linked with a number of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, which are among the leading causes of illness and death worldwide. By improving fitness, teaching us how to breathe correctly, and working to diminish stress, yoga can help to cultivate healthier lifestyles.”
The ancient practice of yoga represents the “breath of the eternal,” according to one of the world’s oldest practitioners, 97-year-old Tao Porchon-Lynch, who began learning yoga in India at age eight.
Speaking to UN Radio as part of a yoga session at Headquarters today, Ms. Porchon-Lynch said she was pleased to see more and more people participating in yoga an she wanted to teach that “when you take a breath, you’re tuning in to the life force inside of you and you’re tuning in to the very spirit of life.” She said people are always telling her what she could not do, but she had no interest in that. “I know that within me is the possibility to go out and do it!” she said.
As for the United Nations, Ms. Porchon-Lynch said the world body was most necessary. “We need to be able to sit down and talk to each other; we don’t need to [search for] what is wrong in life. Whatever you put in your mind, you materialize, so let’s materialize peace and beauty and [the knowledge] that each one of us has something good to offer.” Asked what a world where everyone practiced yoga would look like, she said; “It would be a beautiful springtime; a world where everything flourishes. I don’t believe in hatred. I believe on the smiles on peoples’ faces.
Yogi Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, founder of the Isha Foundation said two billion people around the world practice yoga, fundamentally, “because it works.” Every human being can have a pleasant and peaceful life experience if they “fix” themselves from the inside. And while it is true that one might not be able to teach yoga lessons in a war zone, war itself is a manifestation of what is happening in human minds. “So we can’t start with the outside, we have to start inside,” he said.
Among the worldwide events taking place to mark the Day, the Permanent Mission of India to the UN in association with the UN Department of Public Information, are gathering people in the UN Secretariat Circle at UN Headquarters, New York.
First International Day of Yoga celebrated at the United Nations (Audio Slideshow). Credit: United Nations
Participants at the event will include:
- the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft;
- the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach;
- Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India to the UN;
- and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a renowned spiritual leader who will lead a simple yoga practice.
The event will also include a musical incantation on yoga.