Yoga is a gift from India to the world. It can help transform global health - Hindustan Times
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Yoga is a gift from India to the world. It can help transform global health

Jun 20, 2023 09:50 PM IST

As an ancient practice with benefits in promoting mental and physical well-being, yoga has gained widespread recognition

On June 21, as the world celebrates International Yoga Day, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi will lead the celebrations at the United Nations (UN) headquarters with representatives from over 180 countries. In fact, 250 million people are expected to participate across the world, with the theme Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam aptly translating to One Earth. One Family. One Future.

Yoga, in fact, is an exclusively Indian concept and intervention that has taken the world by storm(HT Photo) PREMIUM
Yoga, in fact, is an exclusively Indian concept and intervention that has taken the world by storm(HT Photo)

Yoga, in fact, is an exclusively Indian concept and intervention that has taken the world by storm. In many ways, it is symbolic of what we as a nation stand for, and over time, it must become a part of every Indian’s life cycle of good health and wellbeing. It is also an intervention and practice that is increasingly necessary, not just for Indians but also for the world.

It is, therefore, one of our biggest soft-power brands, with India taking the lead in terms of health-positive behaviour and actions. The importance of soft power cannot be understated, with several front-line nations taking the onus of using soft power to build their brand. Now, as India becomes a world leader across several aspects, soft power is a key aspect of its consensus building role, highlighted and expanded upon during the G20 presidency.

Yoga has left an indelible impression in the health approach of hundreds of millions of people. It is, therefore, India’s marquee soft power brand and one that will define its heritage and unique advantages. In many ways, yoga is the health intervention that any individual can inculcate in their life cycle to remain healthy, active, and prevent the incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). India is at the cusp of a transformative demographic dividend for the next several years, and an active population is a healthy and productive one. A key intervention in inculcating healthy lives and living is the practice of yoga, as part of an overall lifestyle that includes regular walking, and other movement-related activities. Yoga can be practised at home efficaciously, with minimal, if any, equipment, and can be taken up by people from any age.

The International Day of Yoga was declared by the UN, through a resolution, the draft of which was proposed by India and endorsed by 177 member-States. It was first introduced by PM Modi during his address in 2014 at the 69th session of the UN General Assembly, where he said, “Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”

Yoga is a powerful intervention for any society, most of all India, for better physical and mental health, and to control the inception of NCDs, including cancer, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and the rapidly expanding incidence of diabetes. This comes at a time when there has been an alarming rise in diabetes and chronic NCDs. As with every other issue that the Government of India is progressively taking on, this, too, is an evil that we should counter together as a nation and bring in healthy and active living. One of the key preventive health interventions for these ailments is physical activity, including yoga. These are critical. As a nation, we must become a physically active society, and one of our targets ought to be universal physical activity for every Indian, perhaps by 2047. The role of yoga in this cannot be overstated, given our demographic dividend.

As an ancient practice with proven benefits in promoting mental and physical well-being, yoga has gained widespread recognition worldwide. Several studies have shown that yoga can help tackle NCDs. It is also backed by incontrovertible science. The World Health Organization has listed yoga as a means to improve health in its global action plan on physical activity 2018-2030. Unicef has stated that children can practise many yoga poses without any risk and get the same benefits that adults do. These benefits include increased flexibility and fitness, mindfulness and relaxation.

Yoga is that rare gift that imparts all benefits, with no side effects or downsides. Yoga by India will be immersive, adaptive, universally inclusive and universally practicable. It serves a health and well-being purpose. Physical activity is a national imperative and one of its strongest cogs is, and will remain, yoga.

This is why the world is following India’s lead in adopting it as a health and wellness tool for peace and well-being, amplifying the soft power that India now exemplifies as a national and global imperative — to be active and healthy. This is why it will remain India’s key soft power brand for generations to come.

Amitabh Kant is G20 sherpa, Government of India. The views expressed are personal

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