WHO working to incorporate yoga into universal healthcare

United Nations: The World Health Organisation is closely working with centres in India and across the world to support the unique knowledge of yoga with scientific evidence and incorporate it into universal healthcare approaches, a senior official of the agency has said.

"Yoga is used in many settings in which the health challenges are being addressed and it has a very prominent place in the holistic approach through prevention and control of health disorders," Nata Menabde, Executive Director, WHO office to the UN told reporters here yesterday ahead of the International Yoga Day on June 21.

She said the "ancient vedic gift of India to the world, needs to be studied and supported by scientific evidence and then incorporated in to the approaches to universal healthcare."


She said WHO is working closely with collaborating centres in India and across the world to bring this "unique knowledge" and to support it with scientific evidence to incorporate and standardise some of the practices of yoga.

WHO is also looking to bring yoga into education of medical practitioners since it is a challenge to standardize yoga practice.

Addressing the press briefing, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Asoke Mukerji said by commemorating the Yoga Day globally, India hopes that through the "popularisation of yoga we will be able to tackle some of the biggest challenges that we face as mankind including in the area of global health."

He said an estimated two billion people across 192 nations would have participated in commemorating the first International Day of Yoga by the end of June 21.

Massive preparations are underway to commemorate the first International Day of Yoga on Sunday. The headline event will be at the UN Headquarters where India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will be joined by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President of the General Assembly Sam Kutesa, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and several other diplomats.

The Secretary-General will deliver a keynote address at the event at the UN Headquarters. Ban's spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the UN chief "may partake in some yoga" when asked if he would also be practising some form of yoga on the international day.

Mukerji said 256 cities in 192 countries will celebrate the first annual day of Yoga.
It is estimated that "two billion will have participated by the end of June 21 in commemorating the yoga day," across the world with the only exception of conflict-ridden Yemen, Mukerji said.

He said Swaraj will preside over the two-hour commemoration tomorrow at the world body to be attended by hundreds, including school children from India and the UN International School.

He added that Swaraj will be representing India as the country which had initiated the idea of having an annual international yoga day. Swaraj, along with the UN chief and the UNGA President, would then head to Times Square where an estimated 30,000 people would practice Yoga and where the UN celebrations would also be broadcast live on giant electric screens.

Apart from her participation at the UN headquarters, Swaraj is expected to attend a lecture and demonstration of Yoga at the Hindu Temple Society of North American and at an event at Lincoln Centre featuring Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Menabde said 20 million Americans, including some of the biggest names in entertainment and business, practice yoga. "Yoga is a key symbol of the civilisation that India is," she said adding that the new day proposed by India is a very important contribution to the future and wellbeing of people.

She said yoga has been incorporated by WHO in an attempt to promote alternative and traditional methods of medicine and to treat cardiovascular diseases, mental illnesses and to help the ageing population lead healthy lives.

She cited the example of how in Goa, yoga is being combined with other therapies to treat mental disorders and it was proving beneficial.

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