With today marking International Day of Yoga, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens to observe the occasion whilst maintaining the physical distancing measures in place to combat the pandemic.
“These are times of distancing,” he said. “But do you know Yoga is what ends distance? Yoga is that which joins or brings things together.” Modi went on to add “it also ends the distance between the life we have and the life we want to have. Regular practice of yoga gives emotional strength and empathy. We begin to understand that others would be going through the same struggle as us, so we become a shoulder of support for someone in need of it.”
The recognition of International Day of Yoga is largely Modi’s doing. During the first term of his premiership, “the UN General Assembly adopted an India-led resolution in 2014 declaring June 21 as ‘International Day of Yoga’,” Health Issues India reported previously. “The purpose of the day is to recognise and promote that “Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being.”’
Modi has been vocal about his use of yoga. When ranked the most influential Indian on health by fitness brand GOQiii, Modi’s practice of yoga was prominent. As Health Issues India reported at the time, “GOQii said that the Prime Minister “often practises yoga to keep his muscles active” and noted his completion of the #HumFitTohIndiaFit challenge, which went viral last year to promote the benefits of physical activity. The Prime Minister shared a video of his morning exercise routine in completing the challenge – inspired by “the five elements of nature – water, fire, air, earth, and ether.”
Approximately 300 million people practise yoga worldwide. During the COVID era, the United Nations outlines “while the social distancing measures adopted by countries to fight the COVID-19 pandemic have shut down yoga studios and other communal spaces, yoga practitioners have turned to home practice and online yoga resources. Yoga is a powerful tool to deal with the stress of uncertaintly [sic] and isolation, as well as to maintain physical well-being.”
International Day of Yoga presents an opportunity for the recognition of yoga as a communal exercise: one good for the body and for the mind. COVID-19 underscores the importance of both connecting with one another and maintaining physical fitness. Yoga allows for both to be done – even in, as Modi says, “times of distancing.”