Yoga, a word which originated from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means integration or uniting, comprises of a constantly evolving holistic spectrum of physical and mental methods in order to achieve the highest level of well being. Yoga is an important component of “One world, one health” approach, which combines the human and animal health with environment.
On 27 September, 2014, a historical speech given by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) brought about a revolution in the global health vision. His words which stressed on the importance of yoga for the mind, body and consciousness shone a much needed spotlight on this ancient practice, which eventually paved the way for inculcation of the practice of yoga in the contemporary world driven by technology. In just about a couple of months, the United Nations General Assembly comprising of 193 members declared the date of 21st of June as the annual International Day of Yoga. Since then, the International day of Yoga has been celebrated on this date all over the world, with events planned around the theme of Yoga. The reason for our Prime Minister choosing this particular date every year was that 21st June is the day when a celestial event called “Summer solstice’ takes place. Also known as “Midsummer” or “Estival Solstice”, it is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere due to the tilt of earth’s poles towards the Sun. According to ancient Indian mythology, Yoga had originated on this day when the first Yoga Guru, Lord Shiva, also known as Adi Yogi, decided to teach this science to seven sages.
Though the origins of Yoga date back to thousands of years ago, it has now been globally recognized as an integrative and holistic approach to health. Yoga and modern medicine are both based on rational principles and have been found to complement each other to offer a complete and holistic model of health. It has been observed and
proved that practicing yoga is beneficial not just as a preventive measure but also as a healing tool to combat a vast spectrum of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, hormonal imbalances, pain debilitation, metabolic syndrome, and mental health disorders. Yoga therapy is a fast evolving field which aims to incorporate the application of yoga practices in a targeted manner in order to prevent and combat various pathological states.
The demand for yoga therapy, which is a multi-pronged approach that combines physical and breathing exercises with meditative practices, has increased exponentially over the past few decades. Technology has played an important role in the deliverance and the dissemination of yoga therapy. Telemedicine including videoconferencing and application based services have further expedited this practice. A number of apps on yoga are freely available for use, which can enable an individual to get started with practicing yoga anytime. During the Covid pandemic, most individuals learnt to use technology to address personalized healthcare models, resulting in the yoga industry growing by leaps and bounds.
In the past few years, there have been consistent efforts by the Government of India to bring Yoga into the mainstream and incorporate it in the lifestyle of all individuals. For instance, in 2015, all the activities related to Yoga were declared as exempt from tax. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports declared Yoga as a sports discipline at a priority category. Additionally, Yoga has been introduced as a compulsory subject in schools by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) so that the benefits of this healthy practice can be inculcated in the young minds. However, the enabling of practice of yoga needs to be as much a responsibility of the individual, as it is for the government.
Though the practice of Yoga has been rooted and seeped into our traditions, its documented knowledge is still limited in comparison to the infinite sea of benefits that it can offer to mankind. There is an urgent need to delve into the research and documentation related to yoga.
At the institutional level, various centers and departments dedicated to yoga need to be envisioned and established. For instance, in the premier Institute of India, All
India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, the Centre for Integrative Medicine and Research has been established. The mandate of this centre is to conduct research, which strives to form collaborations between modern medicine and Yoga in order to identify the intersection points of both sciences to develop a functional treatment model. Recently, the The National Medical Commission (NMC) has introduced compulsory yoga training in the MBBS foundation course.
Yoga also needs to find strong roots in the education sector, enabling the transfer of its principles and practices from traditional teachers to relatively contemporary teaching modules. Additionally, the health care professionals and medical science educators and promoters must understand the benefits of yoga on health and need to spread awareness in the society.
The Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) ecosystem for Yoga needs to be nurtured by both the policy makers and the stake holders. There must be acceleration of thrust areas such as repositories of information generated by scientific studies based on yoga, as well as application and translation based models for delivery in the society. Entrepreneurships based on technology oriented yoga software need to be encouraged and funded. Yoga, as a career, needs to be viewed as a potential lucrative choice. Yoga tourism, which combines travel with yoga practices, is an industry which is in its infancy and is expected to explode with promise in the coming times. The combined efforts of the health, tourism and education sectors for the advancement of yoga will propel this ancient practice into a goldmine of employment in the future. Apart from the economic benefits of its industry, yoga as a practice, along with modern medicine has the potential to transform the physical and mental well being of humankind. Hence, the efforts to promote, popularize and disseminate its principles by individuals, institutions and policy makers, are the need of the moment to achieve the “One world, one health” approach for global health.
Prof Sujata Sharma
Department of Biophysics
All India Institute of Medical Sciences
Disclaimer: This work has been submitted by the author. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors only.