Yoga: A traditional way of living Reclaimed by India under Prime Minister Narendra Modi

The age-old traditional practice can act as panacea for all lifestyle related health issues that have been looming large, in the western world.

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Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit ashrams and undertake yoga classes in India every year, thus improving their physical and mental health.

By Kamal Narayan Omer

When Prime Minister, Narendra Modi gave the call to celebrate 21st June as International Day of Yoga, during his speech at the UN General Assembly, on September 27, 2014 it was not only a defining step towards good health and wellness but also an invitation to the world to witness the glorious cultural past of the country, which has enamoured the world for too long. The suggestion was backed by many other countries and the first International Day of Yoga was celebrated on 21st June 2015. Since then, every year the day is celebrated as a significant step towards creating awareness around this age-old practise which not only embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action but also the journey towards self-discovery and sustainable co-existence with nature.

It was exactly eight years back that the Indian Prime Minister reclaimed yoga and the world was quick to take notice of India’s glorious past and its connection with Yoga. While the west has long been fascinated by the practise, with Hollywood celebrities swearing by it, Narendra Modi was successful in breaking the hegemonic representation of the age-old Indian tradition and rightfully claimed the roots of the Yoga as being Indian, an acknowledgment that was long over-due.

While many claiming Yoga to be the best “Indian Export” so far, Modi’s endorsement of the same has seen the world especially the younger generation wakeup to “Woke Yoga” thus deriving innumerable health benefits from the acclaimed practice of Yoga, involving not only physical activity but also meditation, breathing techniques thus leading to holistic development of the body as well as the mind. For many yoga has become synonymous to the science of maintaining the perfect harmony between your mind, body and soul, however it won’t be wrong to say that this Indian tradition has much more to offer. For many it’s the way of life that offers salvation from all the negative energy that keeps our mind and thoughts bottled up thereby leading to stress and anxiety.

Yoga is also a spiritual journey towards self-realization and towards a more sustainable and healthier lifestyle. It is the ancient art of living that emphasis on the connection between mind, body and soul while also focusing on relationship between mankind, universe and their roots and traditions. Yoga also focusses on redemption from the sufferings of our lives thus granting liberation or Moksha, the ultimate salvation in ancient religious texts. The Indian Government’s far-sighted approach in popularising the concept can have far reaching social and economic benefits for the country as well. The re-branding of Yoga as being traditionally Indian has not only further sparked interest in Yoga but also ignited interest in India as a country; its culture and traditions. Thus, initiating a global movement towards good health, stress free life and mental happiness in consonance with the environment, a much- needed shift in the current times.

Stress Free life amidst the Pandemic

The pandemic saw the world struggling with mental health issues including anxiety, depression and sleeping disorders. Covid19 not only made us physically vulnerable but the mental wellbeing of a large number of people was also impacted. It was during this time that Yoga came to the respite of many, who were locked away in their homes fearing the transmission of infection and cut off from the comfortable physical affinity of friends and family. Giving the much-needed pause from the hustle bustle of the daily life and time to introspect and contemplate. The breathing techniques offered by Yoga also helped in rejuvenation of lungs and increase in oxygen levels thus repairing the damage caused by the infection. The practices of yoga, meditation, and spirituality served as effective antidotes to the panic, fear, stress and grief that come with the pandemic. For many who were initiated into the tradition of Yoga during the lockdown, it was a rare opportunity to dive deep into self- discovery and nurture the meditative space for transformation within our existence.

As the pandemic pushed us into unprecedented waves of social isolation, Yoga helped in channelising it towards cultivating liberatory frameworks in mysticism and spirituality in order to heal and evolve as human species to live more harmoniously with nature and environment. It focussed on holistic well-being along with encouraging sensitivity towards society and fellow humans. If used effectively, spiritual traditions can help us look into the soul of humanity and transform the economic and societal systems disrupted by the pandemic hence Yoga can play an important role in the post pandemic recovery plans.

Yoga and Global Wellbeing

Practising yoga daily can have a positive effect on our lives. It brings together physical and mental disciplines to achieve a peaceful body and mind while helping in stress management also. In today’s busy world where stress and anxiety have become a part and parcel of our daily lives, Yoga acts as a catharsis to clean our physical and mental facilities of the ravages of the day and refresh us for a new day with vigour and vitality. It even helps us with increased flexibility, muscle strength, and body tone.

With heart problems, blood pressure issues and mental stress disrupting health of the younger population, Yoga can provide an excellent opportunity to keep these aliments in check by regular asanas as well as meditation which helps keeping stress at bay. While the world has embraced this traditional Indian with both hands for physical and mental wellness however the world needs to look beyond the wider benefits that Yoga offers as an ethical and idealistic way of life. Much like the Sufi and Bhakti traditions of Indian mysticism, Yoga lays emphasis on love for humanity and a life free of greed, hate, jealousy thus freeing oneself from the vices that have a negative impact on our body and mental wellbeing. It is a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not only about exercise or physical activities but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness around harnessing the power of human energy to achieve the common goal of a better world for all.

The Prime Minister Modi, has reclaimed brand yoga and led a new global movement with this ancient practice, he has shown the way to the world and the time is ripe for us to harp on the opportunity. The sight of an office goer carrying a yoga mat along with a laptop has become usual not only in Indian Metros but also in cities like London and New York. With Indian celebrities falling in the line and launching their respective Yoga DVD’s. Much of the creditfor this goes to the Indian Prime Minister who himself has been a staunch believer in the health benefits of Yoga and wants the world to benefit from it. While there has been no dearth of followers from India Inc for PM Narendra Modi’s calls, be it ‘Make in India’ or ‘Digital India’, there’s a world of opportunity for Indian companies in realising the business opportunity provided by yoga. According to many estimates the worldwide yoga industry has boomed into a $30 billion-plus business.

Hundreds of thousands of tourists visit ashrams and undertake yoga classes in India every year, thus improving their physical and mental health. With Modi pioneering the International Yoga Day through UN, Today Yoga seems to be one of the strongest global brands strengthening India’s new ambition of becoming global wellbeing hub – through Heal in India. The age-old traditional practice can act as panacea for all lifestyle related health issues that have been looming large, in the western world. Apart from the economic prospects that it offers, Yoga can open new vistas for holistic individual wellbeing, harmonious co-existence well as for the protection of our environment, if practised as a larger way of life and in a holistic way. With this year’s theme “Yoga for Humanity” gaining momentum, the message to the world is loud and clear, that Yoga is a non-negotiable way of life to cure the world not only from the ravages of the pandemic but also in the shift towards a more humanitarian, inclusive and egalitarian world.

Hence Apart from playing a pivotal role in furthering the country’s image of a global health and well-being centre in the wider world, Yoga if followed with the right spirit of body and mind can work wonders for a more sustainable, greener and healthier world thus providing a win- win situation for all.

(The author is the CEO, IHW Council. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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