Yoga for women’s empowerment - June 21: International Yoga Day

Yoga for women’s empowerment - June 21: International Yoga Day

By United Nations

This year marks the 10th International Day of Yoga with the theme “Yoga for Women's Empowerment”. The goal is to transform yoga into a widespread movement that emphasizes women’s wellbeing and promotes global health and peace.

Female empowerment aims to create a society in which all women can make their own choices and are able to act with confidence. Through regular yoga practice, women not only can tone their bodies, but can also cultivate a sense of mental resilience and determination, empowering them in various stages of their lives. Yoga's focus on mindful breathing, meditation and gentle movement helps calm the nervous system, lower stress hormone levels, and promote a sense of inner peace. Regular practice fosters mental wellbeing and emotional resilience.

What is Yoga and why do we celebrate it?

Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word “yoga” derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. 

Today, it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity.

Recognizing its universal appeal, on December 11, 2014, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131.

The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. 

The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly, in which he said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our wellbeing. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature”.

The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health”. In this regard, the World Health Organization has also urged its member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. But yoga is more than a physical activity. In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late 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.”

Yoga in the intangible cultural heritage

Yoga was inscribed on UNESCO's Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2016. The philosophy behind the ancient Indian practice of yoga has influenced various aspects of how society in India functions, whether it be in relation to areas such as health and medicine, or education and the arts. Based on unifying the mind with the body and soul to allow for greater mental, spiritual and physical wellbeing, the values of yoga form a major part of the community’s ethos.

Yoga app by WHO 

In 2021, the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Government of India, launched WHO mYoga – a yoga app to help people stay active and healthy. The app contains a collection of videos and audio files to teach and accompany yoga practice, and is an easy-to-use and free tool for both people, who are trying yoga for the first time, and for those who already practice yoga regularly. No special equipment is needed, and users can learn or practice for between 3 and 45 minutes, so even busy people can use it to get active. The app was developed by BeHe@lthy BeMobile, a joint initiative between the World Health Organization and the International Telecommunication Union.

Celebrating International Days

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool.

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