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The Pursuit of Yoga- How India’s Soft Power Symbol Scaled Global Heights

Yoga day

As the world celebrates International Yoga Day with aplomb on 21st June every year, the story of Yoga taking the centerstage has many takeaways to offer apart from the obvious health and fitness benefits. It is also a story about how a brand ambassador with a vision can take the things to the higher level to make it a symbol of the country’s soft power. This brand ambassador, as far as Yoga is concerned, is none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Of course, Yoga in the Indian tradition has thousand years of history and there have been many well-known teachers and advocates of Yoga all this while. What PM Modi did was that he made Yoga a people’s movement at global scale. In fact, Jan Bhagidari is the governance model PM Modi holds dear to his heart as seen in the implementation of Swachhata Abhiyan.

To reap the benefit of Yoga, one needs to regularly practice it. Likewise, to make anything a mass movement constant messaging and activities surrounding the subject are needed. So, let’s trace how PM Modi started the movement around Yoga and ensured the momentum does not recede midway.

September 2014, Pitching Yoga in UN

The seeds of a mega global movement can be traced here, when on September 27, 2014, speaking at United Nations, PM Modi called for observing an international day for Yoga, asserting that it is “India’s gift to the world.”

What happened next is narrated well in the words of PM Modi itself in his Mann ki Baat address in December 2014.

“The entire world came together on the issue of Yoga in the UN and a unanimous resolution was passed just two days back (11th December 2014). One hundred and seventy-seven countries became the co-sponsors. In the past, when it was decided to celebrate the birthday of Mr Nelson Mandela, 165 countries became co-sponsors. Before that, efforts were on for International Toilet Day and 122 nations became co-sponsors of that initiative. For celebrating 2nd October as Non-violence Day, 140 countries became co-sponsors. But 177 countries co-sponsoring Yoga is a world record of sorts.”

Post 2014 Journey

As documented by AYUSH, the first International Yoga Day on June 21, 2015 had made two Guinness World Records- the Largest Yoga Lesson involving 35,985 participants and Maximum number of Nationalities (84) participated in a single Yoga lesson.

In his Mann Ki Baat in May 2015, PM Modi inspired people by giving specific points to them to keep alive the spirit of Yoga Day.

“You must have relatives who live in different parts of the world. Call them and ask them to organise neighbourhood yoga meetings on 21st June. If they have no knowledge of Yoga, ask them to get a book and organise book readings. Read a letter on Yoga.”

In June 2016, Narendra Modi had initiated a debate through social media using the hashtag #YogaFightsDiabetes.

In April 2018, PM Modi had posted his own Yoga video. He inspired the whole country to come out and share their fitness videos on various social media platforms as part of the Fitness Challenge. This created a buzz and enthusiasm among people as they went on tagging people on social media thereby turning it into a movement.

Many days before International Yoga Day-2019, PM Modi started sharing the animated videos of different Asanas daily on his social media account.

Every year, on International Yoga Day, PM Modi has made it a point to take part in public event of Yoga practice. Following suit, the administration, state governments also made it a public event thereby helping people to be aware of Yoga and encouraging them to practice it over the year. The Prime Minister often chooses to gift books and materials related to Yoga to the foreign dignitaries.

Yoga has been the symbol of our ancient wisdom and strength from long time. But only after PM Modi’s big push, the world at large and even the people of this country recognised this fact widely.