As dawn breaks on the June 21, a unique symphony will unfold across the globe. Millions will move and breathe in unison, their actions not merely physical but a dance of the spirit, a celebration of ancient wisdom that binds us all. This International Day of Yoga transcends borders and cultures, uniting the world in a harmonious rhythm of breath and movement. But this day is more than a global celebration of yoga postures; it is a testament to Bharat’s timeless wisdom and spiritual heritage, a beacon that illuminates the profound philosophy of Yoga. A philosophy that holds the potential to transform not just individuals but entire nations.
Yoga, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘union’, is a holistic philosophy that transcends the physical realm, integrating the body, mind, and spirit. It is a journey of self-discovery, a path that leads us to our innermost essence, the Atman or the divine self. The ancient sages of Bharat conceived Yoga as a means to attain self-realisation to experience the divine unity of all existence. They understood that true well-being is not merely the absence of disease but complete physical, mental, and spiritual harmony. This profound understanding forms the bedrock of Yoga, making it a holistic system of health and well-being.
In India, about 77 million people over 18 years have diabetes, and nearly 25 million are prediabetics. According to Apollo’s Annual Health of the Nation reports, non-communicable diseases have become the leading cause of death and suffering, contributing to about 65 per cent of deaths in India. An extensive survey of urban Indian elderly residents reported that 71 per cent of the survey participants had one NCD. In comparison, 40 per cent elderly had more than two NCDs. According to the report by Apollo, during the years 2019 and 2022, there was a 50 per cent increase in the obesity rate, an 18 per cent rise in dyslipidemia and cholesterol irregularities, an 8 per cent rise in diabetes, and an 11 per cent increase in hypertension cases, among the Indian population. A study in the Indian Journal of Health Economics and Policy found that preventive healthcare measures like Yoga can reduce healthcare costs and increase productivity. The Public Health Foundation of India estimates that non-communicable diseases, including those that can be prevented or mitigated through Yoga, could cost India more than $6.2 trillion between 2012 and 2030.
Let us look at what the latest clinical research & medical science says about the efficacy of Yoga on the diseases highlighted in the statistics mentioned above. Cardiovascular health is literally and figuratively at the heart of the matter. A study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology has shown that Yoga can be a potent ally in our fight against heart disease. It reduces risk factors such as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, the silent saboteurs of our heart health.
A systematic review in the Journal of Diabetes Research found that Yoga may aid glycemic control and improve other metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Research supports the benefits of Yoga for managing specific conditions related to NCDs, including heart disease and chronic lower back pain, often associated with obesity, another NCD. These studies underscore the potential of Yoga as a therapeutic approach to managing NCDs and enhancing overall health.
Recent research has highlighted the positive effects of Yoga and meditation on the brain. These practices have been found to improve cognitive function, reduce stress levels, and enhance overall well-being. They also suggest that the human brain is still evolving and that Yoga and meditation can contribute to this evolutionary process. Incidentally, our sages achieved this enlightenment thousands of years ago through their lifelong practice of Yoga and meditation, a solemn reminder that there is nothing that humans cannot achieve.
Integrating Yoga into mainstream healthcare is not just a matter of health but also of social justice. It’s a cost-effective, accessible, and sustainable solution that can benefit individuals and communities alike. Imagine a society where most individuals are physically fit, mentally balanced, and emotionally healthy. It’s a revolution in healthcare that’s been waiting in the wings, ready to take centre stage. The improved quality of life is not a mere conjecture but a potential reality that could be realised through the widespread practice of Yoga.
As we grapple with the escalating crisis of non-communicable diseases, we need to recognise this ancient tool that has the potential to transform our approach to health and wellness. With its holistic focus on mind-body wellness, Yoga offers a unique approach to disease prevention and more effective treatment that complements traditional medical treatments. Moreover, we must continue to invest in research to understand Yoga’s benefits further and validate its effectiveness in preventing and managing non-communicable diseases. This is not just about embracing an ancient practice but advancing modern healthcare and making it more holistic, patient-centred, and effective.
Given these insights, it seems only fitting to suggest that Yoga be integrated into higher education and research, especially in medical fields. The upcoming generation of doctors must strive for holistic patient wellness instead of just treating the symptoms. Integrating Yoga into our education and healthcare systems ensures a healthier, happier future for all.
The International Day of Yoga is not just a day to perform asanas. It is a day to reflect on the profound philosophy of Yoga, which can guide us toward individual well-being and national resurgence. It is a day to celebrate our rich heritage, to express our gratitude to our sages who gifted us with this profound science.
As we prepare to celebrate this day, let us remember that Yoga is more than a physical practice. It is a philosophy, a way of life that can guide us toward a healthier, happier, and more harmonious future. As we stand on the threshold of a new era where India is reclaiming its rightful place globally, we must embrace our rich heritage. Yoga, a gift from us to the world, symbolises our ancient wisdom and spiritual depth. It is a testament to our sages’ profound understanding of life and well-being.