International Day of Yoga

Spiritual luminaries, celebrity yogis and UN dignitaries celebrated the third annual International Day of Yoga at the United Nations in New York City on June 20-21

A beautiful commemorative Yoga Day stamp was released on the occasion with H.E. Peter Thomson, Hon'ble Mr Syed Akbaruddin, Pujya Swamiji, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, joined by yoga teachers and experts.
 

More than 1,000 people participated in the International Day of Yoga at the United Nations in New York City on June 20-21, celebrating the ancient tradition of Yoga brought to the West from India. This historic gathering was led by one of India’s most revered and beloved Spiritual Leaders, His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswati, President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), along with Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Director of the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan, and Secretary General of GIWA. Both luminaries, known for their altruism and global interfaith endeavors, have curated some of today’s leading yoga talent to join them in illuminating the myriad gifts yoga brings to the world.

This unprecedented spiritual gathering featured today’s most renowned yoga experts including: Jivamukti’s Sharon Gannon; Off the Mat founder Seane Corn, Kirtan Master Jai Uttal; spoken word artist and social media phenom Prince EA. The yogis were joined by H.E. President of the General Assembly to the United Nations, honorable ambassadors, United Nations delegates and dignitaries from around the world.

Organized by the Indian Mission to the United Nations and its ambassador Syed Akbaruddin this FREE event was the largest celebration of International Yoga Day at the United Nations yet, bringing more than 1000 people together, united in the mission to create a more peaceful world through the “true” practice of yoga, which extends beyond the mere physical practice of asanas to every moment and every minute of our lives.

Said HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati (Pujya Swamiji), “During International Yoga Day, the sun reaches the highest point in the sky, and people from New York to New Zealand will similarly be reaching to the sky with Yogic techniques developed by India’s ancient sages to ease the pains, strains and stresses of daily life. How symbolic then, that the United Nations will be holding this unifying event on its very lawn, for all to participate and appreciate. With so much turmoil, conflict and challenges in our world today, Yoga is the key to a healthier, happier and more harmonious future.”

President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson shared that the age old practice of Yoga guides people towards being in harmony with fellow humans and with nature. Pointing out towards the fast-paced ways of the 21st century, Thomson said it is important for us to ensure that we look after ourselves through healthy lifestyles and choices and that which helps us sustain physically and mentally, adding that Yoga connects our bodies with nature and leads us in a better balance with the world around us.

Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin said that more than 170 countries have supported the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in recognizing the important role of Yoga in bringing peace and prosperity in the world. He said that not only yoga is restricted to India but the whole world is doing yoga, which shows the importance of our country in the world.

Said Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, "The practice of "yoga" leads automatically to a life in which our choices are ones made in an awareness of unity and oneness. This is what our world needs. As individuals, to overcome our depression, loneliness and numbness, we need to feel connected. As a society, in order to function well, we need to be connected and in harmony. As an international, global world family, we need to realize that we are inextricably connectedYoga, a true realisation of union, could save not only our health, but also our planet. "

Said Sharon Gannon, "The Earth does NOT belong to us—we belong to the Earth.” “A yogi is someone who is striving to live in harmony with the Earth and ALL beings, including humans, animals, forests, rivers, oceans.”

Said Seane Corn, "The time is now for all souls to "wake up" and participate in social change. Let's take all that we have learned on the mat

- including focus, commitment, resiliency, strength, balance, compassion and love-and bring it out into our world, where it truly matters, and create a world that is free, fair, equal, safe, loving and peace-filled for ALL!"

A beautiful commemorative Yoga Day stamp was released on the occasion with H.E. Peter Thomson, Hon'ble Mr Syed Akbaruddin, Pujya Swamiji, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji, joined by yoga teachers and experts. A beautiful plant was given to the hon'ble diplomats as a symbol of allowing the roots and essence of Yoga keep our lives grounded and centered, allowing our lives to bring health and well being to all.

A very special pledge and water blessing ceremony also took place, bringing together all of the Yoga Masters, teachers and experts to encourage and inspire yoga practitioners and enthusiasts from every corner of the world to lead greener, healthier and more harmonious lives.

Said Seane Corn, "The time is now for all souls to ‘wake up’ and participate in social change. Let's take all that we have learned on the mat — including focus, commitment, resiliency, strength, balance, compassion and love — and bring it out into our world, where it truly matters, and create a world that is free, fair, equal, safe, loving and peace-filled for ALL!"
 

Day Two of the International Day of Yoga continued on June 21 with the following event in the ECOSOC Chamber at United Nations Headquarters.


Conversation on Yoga for Health
ECOSOC Chamber, United Nations

Historic Pledge by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, Executive Director of WHO, Bollywood Actor Anupam Kher, Former NFL Player turned Yogi, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji on taking Yoga from global to local, from one day to every day

NEW YORK: On the occasion of the 3rd International Day of Yoga, a special event on ‘Conversation on Yoga for Health’ was organized at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City, in the prestigious ECOSOC Chamber on June 21, 2017. The event was organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations in association with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan (Rishikesh), Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary-General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, President, Divine Shakti Foundation, Mr. Keith Mitchell, Former NFL (USA football) athlete turned yogi, Mr. Stanton Kawer, CEO, Bluechip Marketing Worldwide, USA, Swami Sivadasananda, Sivananda Yoga Retreat, Austria and Mr. Anupam Kher, Actor and Social Activist, India were on the distinguished panel.

The ancient science of Yoga continues to be practiced by millions across the globe as it ‘works’. The regular practice of Yoga has a direct and visible impact on improving physical and mental health and contributes to social harmony and wellbeing. By helping us tune our inner selves with our surroundings comprising all nature including fellow human beings, Yoga contributes to wider societal wellbeing. Yoga promotes the practice of sustainable lifestyles leading to a better harmony between people and the planet.

The United Nations endorsed the vision of Prime Minister Modi by adopting the UNGA resolution A/Res/69/131 that proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga. The resolution notes ‘the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health’.

Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji (Pujya Swamiji) said, " When I was in the jungle I saw that the saints there had no shopping mall, no Pizza Hut, no Starbucks, no Amazon.com to get whatever they want, whenever they want, but they were so happy. Nothing was set in their lives, no menu for tomorrow, but personally they were set. Their hearts were set. Their minds were set. From that, their entire health was set! In our lives everything is set but we are upset! What is the key to being set and healthy in body and mind? The answer and the secret is yoga."

Pujya Swamiji further added "Additionally, today, it’s crucial for us to expand that sense of we must also include our entire planet. Hence yogis must come forward to be Green Ambassadors, ensuring that the world is truly a healthier place for all."

Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji said, "We have eradicated most of the diseases that plagued our planet last century, we now have so many vaccinations,, antibiotics and other medicines. But we are not any healthier. Today the diseases we suffer from are mostly diseases from a system out of balance, a system gone awry. Yoga is what brings us back into balance and cures not only diseases of the body but also the pervasive "dis-ease" lack of ease, lack of balance, that afflicts our minds and hearts. Yoga, a true realisation and practice of union, could save not only our health, but also our families, our communities, our nation and our planet. "

In the opening remarks by Dr. Nata Menabde, Executive Director, WHO, New York shared, "Healthy lives and wellbeing have been recognized as an essential aspect of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Health is defined by the World Health Organization as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. While it is important to provide affordable health care services, including hospitals, quality vaccines and medicines, it is important to spread awareness about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle in promoting good health. Hence, yoga is not a religion but truly a lifestyle."

Acclaimed and respected Bollywood Actor, Anupam Kherji shared, "We leave our happiness in someone else's hand. Yoga teaches you to be happy with who you are. We are constantly trying to be somebody else but Yoga teaches us how to be ourselves. That will be Yoga's contribution to your own life. Your own contribution to your own life. You can only contribute to your life if you are happy with your life."

Dr Bruce Lipton shared, "When we look at the world today we see global crisis everywhere. While you think it is bad news, it is actually good news. Because crisis precipitates evolution. As we face crisis we recognise it is time for us to change. Hence, I honour, respect and appreciate you because evolution is in your hands."

During the end HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji led a beautiful pledge of oneness, inspiring everyone, including Anupam Kherji, Dr. Nata Menabde and the Ambassador of India to the UN, Mr Syed Akbaruddin, to take Yoga from global to local, starting in their own lives and with their own self. All of the participants deeply moved stood up, joining hands, chanting in unison the sound of Om as it powerfully reverberated throughout the hall, ending the historic International Yoga Day conversation on Yoga in Health and leaving everyone with a lot of deep insight and inspiration.

Pujya Swamiji further added "Additionally, today, it’s crucial for us to expand that sense of we must also include our entire planet. Hence yogis must come forward to be Green Ambassadors, ensuring that the world is truly a healthier place for all."

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This article appears in: 2017 Catalyst, Issue 14: Inspiring Positive Social Change

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