The United Nations General Assembly adopted an India-led resolution declaring 21 June as International Yoga Day. It was a historic moment for two reasons: Firstly, after being proposed by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, it was implemented by member countries in the UN body in less than 90 days, and secondly, 177 nations joined as co-sponsors, the highest number ever for any general assembly resolution. We recently celebrated the 7th edition of Yoga Day and while the Covid-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the normal lives and livelihood of many people across the globe, the relevance of yoga has increased manifold.
The practices and concepts of Yoga originated in India with the very dawn of our ancient civilisation. Our great saints and sages carried the powerful yogic science to different parts of the world and made it available for every common man’s reach. It is one of the most amazing practices that streamline the mind, spirit and body and rewards those who seek mental clarity. Yoga is an essential tool for those facing stress and immense pressure in their daily lives and simultaneously seeking to improve flexibility and reduce other health ailments.
Today, Covid-19 has unleashed one of the biggest crisis upon humanity. The pandemic has led to a substantial loss of human life and thrown unprecedented challenges to public health. Due to the ongoing situation, we all are bound and restricted in our homes and constantly living under the fear of infection risks and hence, developing anxiety. Being confined for such long periods has added fuel to our other physical ailments and increased mental stress and anxiety. This public health crisis has emphasised the importance of building immunity and therefore adopting a healthy lifestyle. Many studies have proven the effectiveness of yoga in strengthening the immune system. Yoga is a combination of physical exercise, breathing practices and concentration improvement which strengthens the body and the mind which in turn improves immunity. To name some among the many yoga asanas, Shavasana and Sasakasana reduces stress and increases our immune system’s ability to fight antigens. Breathing practices such as Pranayam maintains our respiratory systems and increases the efficiency of our lungs. Trikonasana improves blood circulation and ensures the optimal functioning of all organs. Hence, practising Yoga is not only helpful in building immunity but also essential for the overall well-being of the human body.
Several medical practitioners and experts are suggesting that patients with Covid-19 mild symptoms who have been advised to isolate at home, must practice Yoga asanas and breathing exercise to fight against the deadly virus. As the virus directly affects the lungs, it is imperative to strengthen the respiratory system. The suggested Yoga asanas help in achieving ideal saturation levels and in restoring lung functions. Practising yoga is not only being advised to the Covid positive patients, but also to the patients who have recovered from the virus. Yogic breathing, beginner-level yoga asanas and meditation brings mental peace to the mind and calms the overall body of the patients who have faced the traumatic experience of Covid-19. Apart from these, the modified breathing techniques and recommended yoga pose by the experts have helped reducing fatigue and naturally restored energy levels among the recovered Covid patients.
The benefits of yoga are not only limited to adults but yoga for children can help counter the stress experienced by them. Covid has taken an unthinkable toll on our children at all levels: socially, emotionally, physically, and academically. Being the nation with the largest population of children and youth, coping with the disruption during this pandemic will require greater efforts from our end to mitigate the impact on their well-being. Hence, I appeal to all the parents and teachers to motivate young children to practice yoga in their daily lives. Practising yoga will allow the children to connect more deeply with the inner self and enhance their strength, flexibility and coordination. Apart from this, the young ones will derive enormous benefits from yoga by improving their concentration and maintaining a sense of calmness and relaxation during these challenging times.
Today, when the world has come to a standstill, yoga has emerged as one of the most effective health practices to improve our immunity and maintain an inner self-balance. Yoga has gained immense admiration and captured people’s imagination globally and thus has become India’s source of soft power. In the absence of the Covid-19 pandemic, we all would have celebrated this festival of the union of mind, body and spirit with great enthusiasm and excitement. However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we are expected to stay in our homes and maintain social distancing. I would appeal to all the citizens and children of my country to not allow the virus to dampen our spirits. Let us all grab our mats and celebrate the spirit of Yoga Day to bring our inner light within us to the surface and achieve a peaceful mind during these tough times.
The writer is Union Education Minister, Government of India.