International Yoga Day, also known as International Day of Yoga, is a day to celebrate the ancient Indian practice of yoga and to raise awareness about its importance. It has been celebrated since the year 2014 and has been recognized as an International Day of Recognition by the UN General Assembly.
Why is International Yoga Day celebrated on the 21st of June?
The proposition of an international day to recognize and revere the practice of yoga was made by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi at the UN General Assembly. He proposed the date 21 June because it was the day of the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, a day that marks the beginning of summer. It is also the longest day of the year, and it used to be celebrated as an auspicious occasion by several non-Abrahamic indigenous cultures in the Northern Hemisphere, like the Indian, Celtic, Slavic, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman people to name a few.
The theme for International Yoga Day 2022 is ‘Yoga for Humanity’, which is aimed at bringing to light the physical, mental, and emotional state people have been in in the past couple of years because of the pandemic and its effect on society, and the subsequent need to inculcate a more holistic health management approach in their everyday life through the practice of yoga.
There is also a mythological significance for the day of the summer solstice to be celebrated as International Yoga Day. Lord Shiva, who is one of the Gods of the Holy Trinity in India, is considered to be the Adiyogi or the first yogi. A yogi is a person who practices the art of yoga. It is said that once Shiva was in a state of blissful meditation so deep that it grabbed the attention of the entire world. Several people visited him to learn this art, but since he was in such a deep state of trance, he did not notice anyone. Slowly, all the people who had come to learn had left, with the exception of 7 rishis. They were so determined to learn this art that they are said to have waited for Shiva to break out of his trance for 84 years, which he did on the day of the summer solstice. These 7 rishis came to be known as the Saptarishis in Hindu mythology, and they are said to have learned the art of yoga from Lord Shiva himself, starting on the night of the first full moon after the summer solstice. In doing so, Lord Shiva is said to have become the Adiguru or the first teacher, and it is also considered the birthday of yoga. Since the Gregorian calendar is the most widely accepted calendar as of now, the date 21 June was chosen because it was on this day that the summer solstice took place. A lot of Indian religions also celebrate the day of the Adiyogi becoming the Adiguru as Guru Purnima.
The UN Resolution
The Permanent Representative of India to the UN Asoke Mukherji introduced the draft resolution in the UN General Assembly on the 11th of December 2014. The draft received a lot of support from the member states of the UN and with the co-sponsorship of 177 nations, the draft text was adopted without even needing a vote. This is also considered a special occasion in the context of the UN because it had the highest number of co-sponsors backing such a resolution in the history of the United Nations.
Importance of Yoga in Schools
Ahead of the first International Yoga Day in 2015, the Government of India made yoga compulsory in the CBSE curriculum for Classes XI and XII while for students of other classes, it was recommended that yoga classes were to be held at least twice a week as part of their physical education program. This raises a very important question - why is yoga important in schools? Given below are a few:
Improves Attention Span of Students
Keeping students focused in class has historically been enforced through corporal punishment, which slowly transitioned to using entertaining means such as quizzes or surprise tests. In online classes, features such as Live Polls, Online Whiteboard, and Hand Raise were introduced on the Teachmint platform to combat this. Yoga can also be used as a tool from the students’ side to improve their focus in class, hence improving the overall quality of the class. Yoga can also help students with learning disabilities such as ADHD to focus in class better.
Physical exercise is an integral part of a student’s life and is paramount to a holistic learning experience. Therefore, it is vital that students practice yoga (if not at school then at home) to make sure that they have ample exercise in their daily routine. Yoga has the added advantage of not being too strenuous to practice, hence making it ideal for students of all ages.
Reduces Stress & Anxiety
In today’s world of competitive exams and tight schedules, keeping your head in the game is one of the most important things to do. Yoga can help students battle stressful situations in their everyday life by calming themselves and hence staying grounded in reality, keeping them focused on the tasks they have at hand.
Encourages Self Love
Being accepting of oneself is the first step towards being an independent thinker, and consequently, a more pragmatic individual. Yoga teaches students the importance of introspection and its effect on their mindfulness as a student. Being self-aware is very important to a student’s future because only through that process can they correct themselves in the long run.
For students, the recommended time of sleep is at least 7-8 hours. Disruptions in sleep can affect students in both their academic as well as personal life in a negative way. Practicing yoga can give students the physical exercise it needs to get a good night’s sleep but also calms their mind, which aids in the same.
In today’s world, living with the looming fear of getting infected by new diseases is all too familiar. It not only induces fear in students but a lack of immunity can have quite the detrimental effect on a student’s quality of life when it comes to their academic performance. Yoga can help regulate blood circulation which has been claimed to improve the immunity of people. This can greatly improve not only the immunity of the students but also their morale.
Spreading the Word of Yoga Through the Online World - Mohit Lohan
As can be seen from the above examples, it is clear that yoga is a great opportunity to help students understand themselves and be better prepared for the world they will have to face. Mohit Lohan, owner of and teacher at Sumantu Yoga Education Hub, had the same vision in mind. Taking inspiration from the people he looked up to in his youth like Swami Vivekananda and Maharshi Dayananda Saraswati, he was interested in yoga from a very young age. He was so inspired to spread all the knowledge he had amassed over the years that he decided to learn it professionally, first taking a diploma in yoga and then pursuing a master's in the same. He is currently a teacher with a large number of students under him and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in the practice. He firmly believes that yoga has only positive effects on the lives of those who practice it and can truly transform their lives for the better, however young they are. Teachers like him are what we need at the hour, intrinsically motivated to do research in the field and reach out to as many students as possible.
Even though it was started as recently as 2014, the recognition of International Yoga Day by the United Nations is a firm nod to the cultural significance of the practice on the global front. Its adoption by almost all developed and developing countries across the globe is a significant step towards not only the acceptance of a pagan practice across the globe but also of India’s soft power on the global scale. The unanimous acceptance of the proposition at the UNGA stands as a testament to the same. It is a way of preserving the heritage of a centuries-old tradition while also promoting it on the world stage with the support of the entire world so that our contribution to the world is not only remembered but also revered and respected.