International Day of Yoga 2021: Helping students and the country emerge stronger from the pandemic

Yoga has the power to bind a person's body and soul, improve concentration and sharpen faculties. On the International Day of Yoga, it is important to analyze the great effect that incorporating yoga can bring to students.

Yoga is India's gift to the world, a profound contribution to the art of living a fulfilling and complete life. It is rooted in Indian philosophy and our way of life. It can help students a great deal in battling stress and anxiety. It can help them not just fare better at studies but also aid their overall development.

The International Day of Yoga comes at a time when the world is dealing with major upheaval due to the pandemic. In this context, the theme for this year — Yoga for well-being — hits the right note.

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased stress manyfold. People are perpetually tensed about not breaking Covid protocol. Following these dos relentlessly can be taxing, and it has taken a toll on mental health. Also, students are dealing with uncertainty around examinations. Yoga is a great proposition in these times. In the words of the late Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar: Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one's actions.

There are concerted efforts being made to ease students' stress. Some organisations have stepped in to address learning difficulties in a direct way. Organisations like Quest Alliance are trying to impart students 21st century skills through self-learning and online learning. Then there are organisations like Smile Foundation, which have made efforts to encourage yoga among students by organising 'Yoga by the Bay' events and celebrating the International Day of Yoga across their Mission Education Centers in the country.

This year, major yoga events will be held virtually, but the enthusiasm is palpable as people are acutely aware of the importance of wellness and well-being, especially given the pandemic.

This is why yoga has seen unprecedented adoption across the world. In India too, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has written to vice-chancellors of all universities and higher education institutes to observe International Day of Yoga along the lines of 'Be with yoga, be at home for building immunity and relief from stress'. The commission has also encouraged students, professors, officers, and other staff of universities and colleges to take an online pledge to make yoga an integral part of their life.

India’s National Education Policy 2020 has also rightly stressed on the inclusion of yoga in students’ lives and on providing formal education in yoga. This will help prepare a strong core for our students. Some state governments have started recruiting yoga teachers in educational institutions and have rightly rationalised their emoluments to match those of other teachers.

It is satisfying to see the commitment that the current dispensation has shown to promoting yoga as a way of life for all citizens. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been a global ambassador of yoga, demonstrating that commitment to a healthy India comes from the very top of India’s governance structure. Apart from repeatedly extolling its virtues, the Prime Minister has called yoga an inexpensive health insurance. Having said that, governments need to do more to promote yoga in the country. And perhaps more importantly, the people of India need to truly espouse yoga as our de facto way of life so we can strengthen ourselves.

The Matsyasana (Fish Pose), Virasana (Hero pose), Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations), Bhramari Pranayam (Bee breathing) and Vajrasana (Diamond or Thunderbolt pose) are some asanas (or postures), which can help students. Regular practice of these asanas will lead to improved blood flow, a calmer mind, increased power of concentration and holistic well-being.

But I find the conventional definition of yoga — a set of specific physical exercises combined with breathing techniques and meditation principles — rather constrained. Yoga is way beyond this. It must be studied and approached as a way of life, as it is deeply spiritual — a journey within oneself. This is how Indian thought and philosophy have always understood yoga, for it brings not just physical and mental well-being, but also helps one explore the metaphysical dimension. Yoga has always informed Indian thought, as a people and as a nation. From yogic thought stems our deep respect for the environment, reverence for nature, and a strong desire to co-exist with the flora and fauna around us.

(The writer is National Secretary, Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas)

(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

Free Press Journal