United Nations: Deputy UN Secretary-General Amina Mohammed has said that yoga can help the world in these troubled times by inspiring the adoption of a sustainable lifestyle to fight climate change and by promoting tolerance and peace.
Addressing the fifth International Yoga Day celebration here on Thursday, she said: "The essence of yoga is balance not only within us, but also in our relationship with humanity, with the world. As such, yoga can promote solidarity, social integration, tolerance justice and peace.
"It teaches us a holistic vision of the world encouraging us to live in harmony with ourselves, society and nature."
The theme of the celebration was Yoga and Climate Action, and Mohammed said that yoga "has a valuable contribution in addressing climate change, the defining issue of our time, by inspiring us to shift away from the unsustainable practices towards inclusive green growth, conscious consumption and much more sustainable lifestyles".
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a video message that the global significance of yoga is that like it unites the body, mind and soul, it can also unite the world.
The celebration was filled with symbolism relevant to the issues of the day. In a show of the nature's challenge, week-long rains continuing into the day, turned the UN lawns soggy, forcing the event indoors into the General Assembly chamber.
And the hall that often echoes with words of disharmony and confrontation instead reverberated with chants of "Om, Om Shanti" led by the yoga gurus.
In a sign of human ingenuity meeting nature's adversities, the yoga masters quickly changed the planned mass outdoor yoga exercises into a performance of "office yoga" for closed in spaces by the diplomats, officials and yoga enthusiasts thronging the Assembly chamber.
India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin noted that the International Yoga Day was born in that very hall through a resolution adopted by the Assembly in 2014.
"There is growing discourse among the global community that yoga can be one of the tools in our collective quest for promoting sustainable development and lifestyles in harmony with nature," he said.
Yoga drives the quest for balance and this "provides us with a framework for managing our needs and desires" he said.
"When applied to communities and societies, yoga offers a toolkit for embracing lifestyles that are sustainable, lifestyles that appeal to the human yearning for harmony."
Celebrity yoga instructor and pranic healer Sunaina Rekhi of Mumbai's Yoga Gallery received loud cheers as she led the audience through a freewheeling session of joyous yoga with feet stomping and jumping in place showing how to relieve stress and relax.
Swami Paramananda of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre, and Kevin Tobar from the Bhakti Centre led chants and yoga exercises adapted for practice in confined spaces like offices.
Since Wednesday, a light show of yoga asanas is being projected on the north face of the iconic, 39-storey UN building at night.
By Arul Louis