international yoga day blog

International Yoga Day is being celebrated around the world this year on a virtual platform on June 21. Indian American physician Sangeeta Agrawal says: “Let this International Yoga Day remind us that we can use this physical, mental and spiritual practice to not just unite our mind, body and spirit but also unite our community.” Seen above: Yoga instructors from Anahata Yoga Zone perform yoga postures on a building's terrace in Hyderabad on June 18, 2020, ahead of International Yoga Day. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

“A good motivation is what is needed: compassion without dogmatism, without complicated philosophy; just understanding that others are human brothers and sisters and respecting their human rights and dignities. That we human can help each other is one of our unique human capacities.” – Dalai Lama.

International Yoga Day is observed on June 21st every year to spread awareness about the health benefits of Yoga. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is being celebrated around the world on a virtual platform. The theme for this year is “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family.” The word “Yoga” is derived from a Sanskrit word that means “to unite.” Yoga means union, the union of soul, mind and body; the union of the ego and the spirit. It brings a sense of oneness with the self, with each other and the world.

The year 2020 could have been the “Year of Clear Vision (20/20)” but it got tainted with “Corona Vision.” Since the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our daily lives, Yoga has become even more relevant. In Yogic and Buddhist philosophy, any suffering is seen as an opportunity to awaken our compassion. Instead of anxiety, panic, frustration and anger, the need for unity, cooperation, peace and compassion becomes even greater. Let this International Yoga Day remind us that we can use this physical, mental and spiritual practice to not just unite our mind, body and spirit but also unite our community.

In their book “Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence That Caring Makes a Difference,” physician scientists Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli have systemically analyzed data from several published research studies and found that compassion really matters – it matters to the person receiving it as much as to the person giving it. Compassionate acts for others are more beneficial to the giver than the receiver and it starts a perpetual cycle of compassion.

On the eve of International Yoga day, there is an event in our community – Let Us Make Compassion Contagious – what a great concept. When the only thing contagious that comes readily into everyone’s mind is COVID-19 – the most important way to counter it is to make compassion contagious. As scientists, we are discussing about the R0 or “R naught” of COVID-19. R naught is a mathematical term that indicates how infectious the disease is. It tells us the average number of people who will contract this disease from just one person. So, if the R0 is 10, it means that a single person who has the disease will transmit it to 10 more people. Can we make the R0 of compassion at least one?

Usually human spirit shines during any catastrophe. Health care workers, front-line workers feel a deep sense of duty and compassion for others when they go to work every day. It is not heroism that drives them, it is compassion. Compassion towards our fellow human beings and open communication, in my opinion, is the only way forward to a peaceful society and world. Even though this pandemic is driving us apart physically, it has the potential to bring us together emotionally and connecting us with each other through compassion.

(Sangeeta Agrawal, MD, FASGE, FACG, AGAF, is a professor of medicine and chief of gastroenterology at Wright State University. The Indian American physician is also a co-founder of a non-profit organization, “Global Pragathi” (www.globalpragathi.com) with a mission to achieve sustainable development in the communities by uplifting underprivileged through education, empowerment and promoting preventive health care. She recently completed her Yoga Teachers’ Training from Method Yoga.)

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