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“Uniting Hearts and Minds: Yoga Brings Kashmir Together”

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International Day of Yoga 2023

By: Zia Darakshan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading the International Day of Yoga 2023 celebrations at the UN Headquarters in New York June 21, is a shot in the arm of the brand India across the globe. Diplomats, academicians, entrepreneurs, leaders, artists, key cultural figures and others from different walks of life from 180 countries are joining the celebrations. Remarkably, Modi after being elected as the Prime Minister of India in 2014,  in his maiden address at the UN General Assembly described Yoga – the ancient Indian tradition – as an invaluable gift to humankind and called for adoption of an International Day of Yoga. And the call got a spontaneous response from the world geographies and today, the prime minister is leading its 9th edition at the UN headquarters between 8 am and 9 am at its North Lawn.

It’s worth mentioning that proclamation of June 21 as the International Yoga Day that too in his first year in office is one of the landmark achievements of the Modi government during its nine-year tenure so fay.

In the words of the prime minister, Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.

History of Yoga

Originating in India, Yoga is one of the oldest sciences known to mankind, dating back over 5,000 years and possibly even 10,000 years. Its roots can be traced to the ancient Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India, as mentioned in the texts of the Rig Veda.

Yoga is an Art and Science of healthy living

The term ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘YUJ’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. Yoga is a practice that holds immense wisdom. It teaches us to connect our individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness, fostering a beautiful harmony between our mind, body, and the world around us. Its purpose is to help us realize our true selves and embark on a journey of self-discovery.

As stated by the prime minister, Yoga is not just about physical exercise; it is a holistic approach that nurtures our physical and mental well-being. By practicing Yoga, we can preserve our health, find inner peace, and embark on a path of spiritual growth. Its timeless wisdom continues to inspire and benefit people from all walks of life, promoting overall well-being and a deeper across global geographies.

Introduction of Yoga to the West

Swami Vivekananda is known to introduce Yoga to the West .It was in 1894 when this monk from Calcutta (today known as Kolkatta) travelled to the parliament of religions in Chicago and spoke about India and Hinduism .He captivated the audience with his enthralling speeches across US. It was during these travels that he was able to seek attention of the west towards his teachings of Yoga. His book Raja Yoga was written in Manhattan in 1896 and had a major impact on Western understandings of what yoga was. Over the coming decades more teachers and disciples of Indian gurus would travel to Europe and America.

Later, in the 1960s, travellers on the hippie trail ended up in Indian ashrams, and images of the beatles visiting the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Rishikesh in 1968 drew greater international attention towards Indian spiritualism and, of course, yoga.

Modi initiative: A shot in the arm

In contemporary time, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi played a significant role in promoting Yoga and popularizing it on the global stage. The United Nations General Assembly declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga in 2014, and this recognition aimed to raise awareness about the benefits of Yoga and promote its practice worldwide. Besides, the Yoga Day celebrated worldwide will remain a constant reminder for all generations to come about the Modi-led government’s overseas successes and overall measures to boost India’s global image.

Today, since 2014, each year, on June 21, the world comes together to celebrate International Yoga Day, to embrace and promote the practice of yoga and explore its potential to foster harmony, balance, and well-being in individuals and communities alike across the globe. Notably, the date also holds special significance as it coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The summer solstice symbolizes a transition from darkness to light, mirroring the transformative journey that yoga can facilitate in a person’s life.

Theme of International Yoga Day 2023

The theme for International Yoga Day may vary each year, focusing on different aspects of yoga and its relevance to contemporary challenges. The theme chosen for this year’s International Day of Yoga 2023 is “Yoga for VasudhaivaKutumbakam,” which beautifully encapsulates our collective aspiration for “One Earth, One Family, One Future.”

Yoga and Kashmir

Yoga Day is also celebrated in Kashmir where people from different background congregate to celebrate the occasion with enthusiasm and joy. However, considering the prolonged instability and sedentary lifestyles that have affected the region, it’s important to move beyond an annual celebration. Kashmir, like many other places faces issues such as anxiety, depression, neurotic disorders, and other illness, making it necessary to incorporate Yoga into the daily curriculum, particularly in schools.

To address these challenges proficiently, it’s imperative to make Yoga a mandatory subject in schools. Integrating Yoga into the daily routine of children can have numerous benefits for their comprehensive wellbeing. Likewise, it should be introduced in colleges and universities, beyond celebrating it on Yoga Day.

Furthermore, in areas where the drug menace is prevalent, free Yoga centers should be established to combat the menace. To encourage community involvement and the establishment of more Yoga centers, incentives can be provided to individuals interested in opening such centers. This approach would help create a sense of ownership and responsibility among the local population, contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

By implementing these measures, Yoga can serve as a powerful tool in combating the drug menace, promoting physical and mental well-being, and fostering a healthier and more harmonious society in Kashmir.

As nation is commemorating the completion of nine years of PM Modi’s tenure, establishing and promoting Yoga centres in Kashmir would be a thoughtful and valuable gift to people of Kashmir, empowering them to lead a healthier and more fulfilling lives amidst the challenges they face.

Courtesy: PIB Srinagar

Author is a freelance writer.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are authors own.

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