International Yoga Day is observed every year on June 21, as mandated by the United Nations, to highlight the importance of the practice — defined as “physical, mental, and spiritual” at the same time — in helping people lead a healthier lifestyle. The day is marked to raise awareness of the many benefits of Yoga, as it continues to grow in popularity across the world and is practiced in its various forms. This year, the International Day of Yoga is putting its focus on well-being beyond the immediate impact on physical health.
International Yoga Day: 2021 theme
2021 International Day of Yoga, to be observed on Monday next week (June 21), carries the theme “Yoga for well-being”, much relevant for our times in a society still recovering from the impact of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
The Covid-19 plight was not just a physical crisis, it also left lasting impacts on mental health, with many left in psychological suffering, depression, and anxiety dealing with the pandemic-necessitated restrictions and loss. Yoga can come to the help of people dealing with such crises, the United Nations explained on its website since the message of the practice is to promote both physical and mental health.
“A growing trend of people around the world embracing Yoga to stay healthy and rejuvenated and to fight social isolation and depression has been witnessed during the pandemic. Yoga is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of Covid-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It is particularly helpful in allaying their fears and anxiety,” read the United Nations statement.
The United Nations has been offering Yoga to its personnel as a means to deal with physical and mental health crises during the Covid-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended Yoga as means to improve health. Its various benefits include increased flexibility, fitness, mindfulness, and relaxation.
International Yoga Day: Origins
The idea for an UN-mandated International Day of Yoga was first proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2014. In his speech, Prime Minister Modi called Yoga an “invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition” and called for the “harmony between man and nature” through Yoga. This initiative was backed by as many as 177 nations, the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such nature.
Following Prime Minister Modi’s proposal, 21 June was marked as the date to celebrate International Yoga Day since it marks the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, which holds special significance in many parts of the world.