Apparently, the United Nations has just adopted a new resolution to declare June 21st ‘International Yoga Day’. The move was put forward by the Indian Prime Minister Modi in a speech he made to the UN in September, describing yoga as “India’s gift to the world.”
This is just the latest in a series of moves the Indian Government has taken to safeguard and promote yoga in it’s traditional form. In 2001 they created the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library, as a means of protecting ancient knowledge shared by all from being patented by the few (as was happening at the time). This was eventually expanded in 2008/9 to ‘copyright’ 1500 yoga poses so that no one person could claim them as their own.
Finally, in November 20014, they appointed a Minister for Yoga and Traditional Medicine, to oversee all of their good work so far, giving him a remit to ensure that yoga practice returns to it’s more spiritual roots. It seems they are concerned that a lot of what makes yoga so special is being lost in some people’s concentration on becoming bendy, and really you can see why.
The BBC report on the adoption of International Yoga Day posits the ridiculous question “Can Yoga Solve Climate Change?”, to which the simple answer appears to be “Don’t be silly.” But that’s only if you consider yoga to mean just the exercises people do (the asanas), often without the spiritual aspect as well.
To study the complete yoga system is to practice the mental as well as physical components – meditation, mindfulness, and proper relaxation – and in doing so to gain a better understanding of ourselves, our actions, and the effect we have on the world around us. We also come to understand that the idea we are separate from our environment is an illusion, and anything we do to it we do to ourselves. So maybe, from that perspective, yoga can change help solve climate change (in part, at any rate).
In my opinion anything that promotes yoga is a good thing, as it can only benefit everyone in the long run. And while I don’t think the creation of an International Yoga Day will change your average beer-drinking, meat-eating, TV-watching person into a full on yogi, a forum for introducing the asana-only yogi to the more spiritual aspects of their practice will certainly be of benefit to a great many people in the years to come.