Yoga is beyond any religion and its benefits transcend from helping achieve physical and emotional wellness to contributing to global sustainable development and peace, leading personalities said here on the occasion of the third International Day of Yoga. India’s Permanent Mission to the UN organised a special session ‘Conversation on Yoga for Health’ at the world body’s headquarters yesterday that brought together an eminent line up of experts, including World Health Organisation New York Executive Director Nata Menabde, Actor Anupam Kher, Swami Chidanand Saraswati and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati of Parmarth Niketan.
Addressing an audience that comprised UN diplomats, envoys, officials and yoga practitioners, Menabde said yoga can be used to “unite our complex and difficult world and to promote not only healthy lifestyles but also peace and security in the world”. She said the practice of yoga is playing a key role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal number three that focuses on healthy life and well being for all.
Terming yoga as a “holistic” and integral science of life, she added that yoga is a “unifying concept” that can be beneficial to millions of people experiencing distress in situations of crisis. “Yoga is always there with you,” she said underscoring that “it is for people of all religions, races and nationalities because Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is a lifestyle.” Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati termed Yoga as a system of union and wholeness that brings people the “experience of being complete,” not because of what degree they have, their bank balance or their physical appearance but with the spiritual wholeness and mental well-being.
Kher, in a lively and engaging speech to the audience, shared how yoga played a very important role in his life and taught him to be content with what he has and to be truthful to himself. Describing the modest household he grew up in, Kher said “yoga taught us to be happy with whatever God gave us. Yoga is also about having a truthful and honest conversation with yourself. Yoga is not telling a lie to yourself. It teaches you to be happy with yourself,” he said.
He underscored that yoga’s contribution to one’s life is that it empowers “you to be yourself”. Kher stressed that people are constantly trying to be somebody else “and in the process when you are trying to be somebody else you are neither yourself nor the other person. Be yourself, that will be Yoga’s contribution to your life,” he added. Earlier speaking to PTI, Swami Chidanand Saraswati said yoga on the mat is one thing but yoga off the mat is yoga in action.
“Today the world needs music of peace, harmony more than anything else. Yoga can do that. Yoga does not create wars, walls and violence. It is for every colour, creed and culture. That oneness can be brought through yoga,” he said. He said yoga imparts not only physical flexibility but also mental flexibility. “Flexibility means it is not about my way or no way. Today what we need is that people think ‘my way is also one of the ways’,” he added.
Other panelists at the session Former NFL athlete turned yogi Keith Mitchell and CEO of Bluechip Marketing Worldwide Stanton Kawer shared with the transformational impact yoga has had on their personal and professional lives. The session was the second flagship event organised by the Indian Permanent Mission to mark International Yoga day this year. On June 20, over 1,000 people, including UN diplomats and officials, had assembled at the sprawling North Lawn of the UN headquarters and participated in the two-hour-long yoga and meditation session.
Thousands of people had also gathered at the city’s iconic tourist destination Times Square for the ‘Solstice in Times Square’. Yoga mats covered the crossroads of the world as yoga enthusiasts from diverse nationalities and ethnicities performed various asanas in unison and celebrated the onset of summer. India’s Consul General in the city Ambassador Riva Ganguly Das addressed the large crowd at Times Square, saying the world embraces yoga on its international day.