NEW YORK: The United Nations hosted more than 1,000 people on June 20 for this year’s International Day of Yoga led by His Holiness Swami Chidanand Saraswati; the President of Parmarth Niketan in Rishikesh and Co-Founder of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati; the Director of the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan and Secretary General of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance.
They were joined by Jivamukti’s Sharon Gannon, Off the Mat founder Seane Corn, Kirtan Master Jai Uttal and spoken word artist and social media phenomenon Prince EA along with representatives from the World Health Organization as well as UN delegates, ambassadors and dignitaries from around the world.
The event was organized by India’s Permanent Mission to the UN and was free to the public and those who were present were united in the mission to create a more peaceful world through the “true” practice of yoga.
“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,” said Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati.
“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,” he added.
“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 connected Yoga, a true realization of union, could save not only our health, but also our planet,” said Sadhvi Bhagawatiji.
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” and mentioned that yoga is not only being practiced in India but in the whole world.
President of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Peter Thomson noted that “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.”
“The Earth does not belong to us—we belong to the Earth.” said Sharon Gannon, adding the fact that “a yogi is someone who is striving to live in harmony with the Earth and all beings, including humans, animals, forests, rivers, oceans.”
“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!” said Seane Corn.
A Yoga Day stamp was also released by Peter Thomson, Syed Akbaruddin, Pujya Swamiji, Sadhvi Bhagawatiji and yoga teachers and experts, at the occasion and a water blessing ceremony took place, where water was poured over a globe and all joined in to pray for clean water for all.
On June 21, a Conversation on Yoga and Health was held at the UN where there was an informative panel discussion, followed by an audience question and answer session on yoga and health, featuring: His Holiness Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati; Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati; Dr. Bruce Lipton, a scientist and bestselling author of The Biology of Belief; Keith Mitchell, a former All-Pro NFL football player turned yogi; Bollywood actor Anupam Kher; Dr. Nata Menabde, Executive Director of the World Health Organization Office at the United Nations; Swami Sivadasananda, Executive Board Member of International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Stanton Kawer, CEO of Blue Chip Marketing WorldWide.