It seemed harmless enough. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly last year, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the dedication of an International Yoga Day. “It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness within yourself, the world and the nature.” Truly beautiful sentiment, and a welcome change from the normal polarizing dogma being spewed in the political arena.
But apparently even yoga can be politicized. While over 175 countries co-sponsored the resolution, there are some who believe India’s efforts are aimed at the self-aggrandizement of India’s Hindu population at the expense of its Muslim minority. The focus has shifted from a healthful physical and mental practice to the endorsement of one religious practice over another. With scores of Muslim countries supporting the International Day of Yoga, the political/religious pill is a hard one to swallow.
Never has yoga been intended as a way to divide. Never. Finding connections, unity, within oneself and with the larger world is an admirable, healthful, and peaceful approach to life, one that should never be politicized. It is unfortunate that such a noble effort, one that could do so much good for so many, should come under fire for perceived political motivation.
Where we have the opportunity to celebrate, to be joyful, to be at peace, do we not owe it to ourselves and each other? Be a part of International Yoga day. Join in the peace, the bliss, the quiet, the connection to your brothers and sisters all over the planet. As Henri Amiel suggested, “Life is short and we have never too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are traveling the dark journey with us. Oh be swift to love, make haste to be kind.”