Amid parochial posturing, UN chief backs universality of yoga

Amid concerns among some of India’s minority religious groups over India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts to promote yoga as the country’s signature cultural export, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has underscored the non-sectarian nature of yoga and stressed that it didn’t discriminate on the basis of religion, but gave a sense of satisfaction to its practitioners.

Ahead of the first ‘International Day of Yoga’ to be observed on June 21, the UN chief said, “Yoga does not discriminate; to varying degrees, all people can practise, regardless of their relative strength, age or ability.”

Mr Ban, during his visit to India in January this year, had practiced yoga with one of his senior advisers – Indian diplomat Vijay Nambiar. Mr Nambiar had given the UN chief his first yoga session as a preparation for the upcoming ‘International Day of Yoga’.

Mr Ban discovered that when he tried his first ‘asana’ in New Delhi, it gave him “simple sense of satisfaction”. He said yoga was a simple, accessible and inclusive way of achieving physical and spiritual health and well-being.

Mr Modi had proposed ‘the International Day of Yoga’ in his maiden address to the United Nations last year. The UNGA adopted the proposal, with a record 177 countries co-sponsoring it, and declared that June 21 will be observed as the ‘International Day of Yoga’.

About 177 countries are making preparations to commemorate the Yoga Day. The UN will also organise the International Day of Yoga at its headquarters in New York, with the UN chief and senior officials in attendance. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will represent India at this showpiece event that represents a milestone in India’s cultural diplomacy.

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