Yoga for a healthy nation 

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Abhishek Dayal

A serious health time-bomb is ticking for the nation. To give but one example: experts recently warned that more than 10 crore people are likely to be affected by Diabetes in India in the next ten years. Diabetes not only leads to fall in quality of life and productivity, it is also life threatening.

Falling health standards in adult population in India is evident from increase in all types of non-infectious illnesses like cancer, kidney, lung and heart failures, spinal problems and many others.

Fighting for the health of the nation has become a collective challenge for the individual, families and the society. Although there is no one cause leading to this depressing scenario, but three main culprits can easily be identified: poor lifestyle choices, pollution, and lack of preventive healthcare and remedies at the onset of illness.

The nation suffers from falling health of its citizen through fall in productivity and huge amounts of money that has to be spent on public health care. A healthy citizen makes for a healthy nation.

Going to the root of the problem, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi identified practice of Yoga as a solution for restoring the health of the citizens. This solution is unique as it seeks to involve each and every Indian in fight against ill-health. The cost to the society for adopting a healthier life through Yoga is virtually zero. The allied benefits of sharper mind, a peaceful mind and possible spiritual benefits makes the solution even more unique!

In a recent interview, AYUSH Minister Shri Shripad Yasso Naik was asked why Indians are not fit if they know of benefits of Yoga since centuries. His answer was simple and straightforward- he said “because Indians don’t do it!”

The benefits of Yoga are known and proven. Yoga has been a part of our culture and folklore for ages. Simple Yogic exercises are known by a large chunk of our people. Its acceptance cuts across all sectarian and class divides. Still it requires a massive government effort for spreading the awareness, simply because like many other things traditional, Yoga had lost out by not being fashionable for a long period.

This author was in Colombo, Sri Lanka, during the celebration of the first International Yoga Day last June. A big, curious crowd had gathered at the picturesque Galle Face Greens to participate in the event, including a group of journalists who had come to cover the event. They seemed bemused: they felt it was like another rock music event, where one comes for entertainment and to be ‘seen’ with the happening crowd. These journalists were also invited to participate in the 45 minute long session led by a local Yoga expert. The results were amusing and instructive.

The journos were first impressed by the strain that their bodies showed when they did the ‘simple’ Yoga exercises. During the next few days almost all of them discussed among themselves how their bodies had reacted after the session and by the weekend some of them had joined the Yoga classes at the Indian Cultural Centre in the city. A year on, this group has become Yoga enthusiasts and have made Yoga an integral part of their life.

Why is this anecdote important? It shows two things: One, that Yoga is universal, effective and easy to communicate, and two, that it requires an initial push to take it to a community, after which a momentum builds around it and it spreads its roots.

There has been any number of studies to show the direct benefits of Yoga for people suffering from many life-threatening disorders like falling lung or kidney functions. To the patients of these illnesses, medical practitioners need to prescribe exercises for improvement in quality of life. But for a modern, relatively healthy citizen, whose lifestyle is such that he or she is susceptible to these diseases, it needs a social awareness campaign to take the message of benefits of Yoga.

It has only been a year since the first Yoga day was globally celebrated. In this one year, the tremendous increase in the number of instructors who have learnt Yoga, the thousands of resident communities that have started morning Yoga classes across the country and the general awareness of the diverse benefits of Yoga to the citizen, and hence the nation, shows that a fire has been lit, and that it is spreading like wildfire. By giving a place to Yoga in our daily lives, we can look forward to a healthier and happier India in years to come.

(The writer is a PIB Officer. The views expressed are personal.)