Dr. H R Nagendra*
While Yoga has always captured the public imagination, the last three years have seen a sea-change in public awareness of Yoga. The announcement of International Day of Yoga on June 21st by the United Nations in response to the appeal by Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi which was spontaneously appreciated and sponsored by 187 countries has promoted Yoga as a way of life to millions of people across the world. With this, India has shared an ancient practice which has now been adopted by almost all countries in the world cutting across cultural, religious, national, and language barriers, thus reinforcing the basic message of Bharat, which is “Unity in Diversity”.
The International Day of Yoga (IDY) bringing millions of people across the world together in an unprecedented scale has started bringing love, peace, and harmony in the world.
In the West, Yoga has been considered essentially as a physical practice to improve flexibility and strength. But, the very word “Yoga” means “Joining”: which brings about the union of mind, body and soul to reach higher states of consciousness.
With the recent advances in quantum physics, including the discovery of the so-called “God Particle” science has started to realise its limitations and begun to see beyond the traditional reductionist framework. Jnana Yoga gives direction to Science to go beyond the physical to recognize five layers of human dimensions.
India has a long tradition of scientific thinking in Vedas known to be the primodial source for all the knowledge base and Yoga having its origin in Vedas has been no exception. The four streams of Yoga Janana, Bhakti, Raja and Karma yogas work at intellectual, emotional, will power and action levels brings toal personality development and has a message for all as Swami Kuvalayananda said decades back and pioneered the scientific research in Yoga way back in 1940s. In a study conducted on Yogi Satyamurthy, published in 1973, it was noted that he was voluntarily able to stop the electrical activity of the heart for upto 9 hours and then revive him spontaneously back to normal. In other study, practitioners of a Buddhist Meditation technique (Benson et al., 1982) were able to increase their body temperature by over 15 degree Celsius. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s contribution to research brought the dimension of Relaxation response by TM (Transcendental Meditation) all over the world. Yoga as an “add on” to modern medicine to deal NCDs as Diabetes, Cancer, Heart problems, etc has shown very promising results with the mechanisms being understood using tools of genetics, brain changes, psychology, and physiological pathways. Such research is being spearheaded by S-VYASA Yoga University in Bangalore, which is now the only full fledged University in the world dedicated to yogic research.
Thanks to our Prime Minister, it has not just been restricted to a single day celebration, but has been incorporated into our educational system by NCTE, NCERT by bringing yoga as a compulsory subject in Primary, secondary and higher secondary levels. UGC also did not stay behind and has brought yoga in higher education system to create persons to teach research and bring the benefits to one and all.
*Author is Chancellor, S-VYASA Deemed University in Bengaluru. He is also the Editor of monthly magazine ‘Yoga Sudha’.