people practicing yoga at home
Left: Anne Hartkemeyer in “VrikshaVasisthasana”; Centre: Former USA soccer Paralympian and sport for development educator and advocate Eli Wolff doing yoga with his 2-year-old daughter; Right: Germán A Bravo-Casas, President, UNSRC Yoga club.
Photo:UNSRC and E. Wolff.

2021 Theme: Yoga for well-being

The Day will be marked at a time when COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend lives and livelihoods of people globally. 

Beyond its immediate impact on physical health, the COVID-19 pandemic has also exacerbated psychological suffering and mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, as pandemic-related restrictions continue in various forms in many countries. This has highlighted the urgent need to address the mental health dimension of the pandemic, in addition to the physical health aspects. 

The message of Yoga in promoting both the physical and mental well-being of humanity has never been more relevant. A growing trend of people around the world embracing Yoga to stay healthy and rejuvenated and to fight social isolation and depression has been witnessed during the pandemic. Yoga is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It is particularly helpful in allaying their fears and anxiety.

Recognizing this important role of Yoga, this year’s commemoration of the International Day of Yoga focuses on “Yoga for well-being” - how the practice of Yoga can promote the holistic health of every individual. 

The United Nations offers yoga resources to its personnel and others on the COVID-19 portal's section on Wellness.

The World Health Organization mentions yoga as a means to improve health in its Global action plan on physical activity 2018–2030: more active people for a healthier world

UNICEF says kids can practice many yoga poses without any risk and get the same benefits that adults do. These benefits include increased flexibility and fitness, mindfulness and relaxation.

2021 virtual event

The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations invites you to an online celebration of the 7th annual International Yoga Day on 21 June 2021, from 8:30 to 10:00 am EST, to be broadcast live on UN WebTV

The event will open with messages from the President of the United Nations General Assembly and the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, which will be followed by demonstrations of Yoga exercises (asanas) to improve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and an Interactive panel discussion on “Yoga for well-being.” 

What is Yoga and why do we celebrate it?

Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness.

Today it is practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity.

Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga by resolution 69/131.

The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.

The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states. The proposal was first introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address during the opening of the 69th session of the General Assembly, in which he said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

The resolution notes “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health.” In this regard, the World Health Organization has also urged its member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

But yoga is more than a physical activity. In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

chairs on lawn

A new normal requires new habits and some creative thinking about your psychological well-being. Now that many of us are forced to work remotely full-time, need to take care of young and old family members during working hours, are feeling stuck or isolated, are separated from loved ones, and have reduced options for regular physical exercise and social activities, we must think differently and creatively about ways to keep healthy in mind and body. 

woman with baby doing yoga

The COVID-19 pandemic means that many of us are staying at home  and sitting down more than we usually do. It’s hard for a lot of us to do the sort of exercise we normally do. It’s even harder for people who don’t usually do a lot of physical exercise. But at a time like this, it’s very important for people of all ages and abilities to be as active as possible. WHO’s Be Active campaign aims to help you do just that - and to have some fun at the same time.

A crowd of women sitting and laughing

International days and weeks are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.