India / London (UK), June 25 2024: The Commonwealth Secretariat in collaboration with the Indian High Commission in the UK and Heartfulness Worldwide today held a special yoga session at Marlborough House to celebrate the 10th International Day of Yoga.

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The event, which was attended by members of the diplomatic community is a part of the global Yoga 4 Unity initiative, which highlights the benefits of yoga in promoting physical and mental well-being.

In 2014, the United Nations declared June 21 as the annual International Day of Yoga. The well-known benefits of yoga align with the Commonwealth Secretariat’s ongoing efforts to enhance health throughout the Commonwealth and combat non-communicable diseases (NCDs) through lifestyle adjustments and physical activity.

Acknowledging the challenges faced in today’s world, Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC said in her video message, “”Our work is full of challenges, and none of us can pour from an empty cup. Yoga offers us a special avenue for self-examination and the pursuit of a healthier, more balanced life. This ancient tradition serves as a profound tool for enhancing mental and physical health for people all over the world, which is vital for our ongoing efforts to combat non-communicable diseases.”

The opening session of today’s event featured a video message from the Hon Shri Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India in which he said, “The world is looking at Yoga as a powerful agent of global good. Yoga helps us realise that our welfare is related to the welfare of the world around us.”

HE Mr Vikram K Doraiswami, High Commissioner of India, reiterated the global importance of yoga in his remarks, “Yoga fosters physical and mental well-being holistically, transcending boundaries and uniting people worldwide. The theme for this 10th edition of International Yoga Day is “Yoga for self and society”, which underscores the importance of yoga in promoting global health and universal harmony. Through yoga, we can jointly contribute to a more peaceful, connected and sustainable world.”

Following the opening session, attendees participated in a yoga and meditation session, guided by experienced instructors. Attendees also had the opportunity to view an exhibition titled “A History of Yoga and its Benefits,” which showcased the rich heritage of yoga.

HE Ms. Linda Scott, High Commissioner of Namibia to the UK said of the event, “Yoga, which has its origins in India more than 5000 years ago, is today being shared with the Commonwealth family as a great health practice to incorporate into all our daily lives. If you are not a regular yoga practitioner, I hope today’s event kindles your interest.”

Rev. Daaji – Guide of Heartfulness Worldwide & President of Shri Ram Chandra Mission, “Yoga is more than an exercise; it is a complete science that transforms us and gives us confidence, clarity of mind, and happiness. I am very happy to know that all of you have gathered at the Commonwealth Headquarters, Marlborough House, to celebrate the 10th International Day of Yoga, the first time this has been celebrated with the Commonwealth.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s recent report, ‘Addressing the Rising Burden of Non-communicable Diseases in the Commonwealth’, highlights the disproportionate impact of NCDs within the Commonwealth.

NCDs are collectively responsible for the deaths of 41 million people per year, with nearly 50 per cent of these deaths occurring in Commonwealth countries. The burden of NCDs is particularly severe in the Commonwealth’s 25 small island developing states (SIDS). These nations face alarmingly high rates of diabetes and obesity, which significantly elevate the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

The report underscores that physical activity, including yoga, can enhance thinking, learning, and judgment skills. This is crucial for reducing the risk of NCDs, which are a major threat to economic prosperity and sustainable development in the Commonwealth.

The 10th International Day of Yoga coincides with the Commonwealth Year of Youth emphasising the importance of health and development in young people. By promoting practices like yoga, the Commonwealth Secretariat aims to foster resilience, reduce anxiety, and support the overall well-being of more than 1.5 billion youth across our member states.

As the Commonwealth prepares for the upcoming Commonwealth Sports Ministers Meeting in Paris this July, today’s event along with initiatives like the Commonwealth Moves programme underscores its dedication to advancing sports and physical activities as crucial elements of well-being. By encouraging healthier lifestyles, the Commonwealth aims to foster harmonious and resilient communities.