New Delhi: June 21 is marked as International Day of Yoga (IDY) across the globe since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. The UN had noted the numerous benefits of practising yoga regularly for marking this day. This date was picked as the day to celebrate Yoga Day as per Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion at the UN, explaining that it is the longest day of the year. This year, the theme for IYD is ‘Yoga for Humanity’ and it focuses on how yoga helps achieve holistic health of every individual. To know more about Yoga and its importance, on this special occasion, team Banega Swasth India speaks with Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji, Secretary General, Global Interfaith WASH Alliance & Director, International Yoga Festival, Parmarth Niketan. Here’s what we discussed:
NDTV: What is the importance of meditation in life?
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji: Meditation is essential to a yogic life. It is also important for a joyful and peaceful life. Because meditation shows us the truth of who we are, it shows us not just our outer space but also the inner space. And the reason most of us suffer and bring suffering upon others is because we live in this illusion that we are our physical body. We are the size, shape and colour, we are our bank accounts, careers, roles and positions, relationships, our popularity, followers and friends on social media. We falsely identify all this external stuff and suffer because we constantly try and grab more and push away things.
Meditation teaches us how not to react. Most of us move through our lives just reacting – whatever happens, we react in anger, pain and in frustration and that just causes more suffering. Meditation shows us the happenings that are taking place in the world and how to choose it consciously and mindfully. It teaches us what to speak, how to react and what to do. Meditation is not complex; one can just begin by watching their breath. Just close your eyes and watch your breath as it flows in and out. Meditation has the power to change your life.
NDTV: Yoga and environment – What is the connect?
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji: Yoga and the environment are deeply connected, on a deeply spiritual level and on pragmatic level. How can we do pranayama if our area is polluted. How can we benefit from bringing in that oxygen into our bodies if the air is polluted. How can we experience health in the body if our water, soil is polluted. So, the food we eat isn’t pure or healthy and is toxic. And with toxic air, water and soil, there isn’t any Yoga, there cannot be any health in the body. We cannot have health without the environment. Talking on deeper level, yoga is like a union, that’s what the word yoga means. And as we experience this union, with the divine, with our inner-selves, we realise that we are not separated from the rivers, mountains, trees. So, as we practice yoga, we realise, how we can live in the world in harmony. We need to stop gobbling up the resources on this planet just to give us what we want to wear, eat and buy. When we practice yoga, we become conscious and aware. What we have today is not global water or food shortage, we have consciousness shortage and yoga gives us the heightened and expanded consciousness in life, for ourselves, each other and the planet.
NDTV: How can yoga help people cope with the depression? Please suggest some asanas.
Pujya Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji: Yoga is the answer to depression, because depression is rooted in disconnection – disconnection with our own self, each other and universe. Yoga connects us, it unites us and that’s what yog means. It unites us with our deepest, truest, highest divine self. It unites us with the universe and that connect cannot coexist with depression. So as that connection comes in depression disappears. And the best way to connect with it is through the 8-fold path of yoga, which is given to us as Ashtanga Yoga. This yoga shows us how we treat, how we act, how we speak, think, move, breathe and what we focus on, where our intention goes and once, we are able to change all of that, we are able to meditate. As far as asanas are concerned, the best asanas for depression is back bends, because depression contracts us, it closes our heart and back bends open our heart. Another important asana are inversions like headstands and handstands. One should do whatever their ability allows them to do. But ultimately you need the full Ashtanga Yoga to really heal and transform on the deepest level.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.