International Day of Yoga 2017

Oprah Winfrey says: ‘There is no doing without being first. Being – your presence, your connection to yourself and that which is greater than yourself – is far more important than what you do, but also is the thing that fuels what you do’.

This year, I had the honour of co-hosting the United Nations 3rd International Day of Yoga in Trafalgar Square on June 20th. It was organised by the High Commission of India and India Tourism Office, with the support of the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The International Day of Yoga was made official for the 21st June, by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi who took the idea to the United Nations. It was the first time nearly 200 countries had united on a single topic in the United Nations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi video speech for London’s International Day of Yoga. Her Majesty The Queen also sent a message.

Many people asked me whether I practise yoga and why I ‘really’ wanted to host the event. I admit I do not practise often, but when I can. But what I do practise, on a daily basis, and believe in, is that we are all connected. I believe that when you search within yourself, you find an inner peace, inner state of quietness, and can connect to your greater purpose, the higher reason for being on earth at this present moment, the infinite possibilities that lie within us, and a state that recognises we are fundamentally all one. In turn, this enables us to connect peacefully with one another and the world around us.

But how does yoga fit in with this philosophy? Yoga is a practise that believes well-being lies within; and it transcends religion, creed and race to achieve a collective, universal consciousness in order to create global health, unity and peace. What is not to love about that!

And what a day it was. What an event! It was the main, biggest yoga event in the UK and followed a succession of pop-up events throughout the week in London. It was also part of a global phenomenon, with thousands of events taking place around the world. And various groups practised different styles and techniques of yoga on stage every twenty minutes, showing on big screens, to engage thousands who had taken to mats laid out by the High Commission of India, and who were standing around, in the bustling city of London.

In light of recent events, such as the London terror attacks, Manchester terror attack, and the Grenfell Tower inferno, this event transformed London from 3pm until 8pm. People of different colours, races, ages, background, nationalities and classes came together to join in mind, body and soul. Participants from all walks of life took part to focus not on what makes us different but what unites us.

You may agree with me that London is like a bubble; a living entity and organism in England. Yesterday, while I stood backstage, I watched people standing on mats and balancing on one leg while moving their bodies forward. I watched how in sync and aligned everyone’s bodies were – as if they were one single unit and entity; like the London in which they stood.


After greeting the next act and double/triple-checking they were happy with their introduction me and my co-host Philippa Blackham, journalist and former presenter for BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and the BBC World Service, had written, I listened to crowds saying ‘om’. And I felt the floor vibrate. I felt the positive, collective energy within my body.

And when an organisation asked for ‘silence’, I stood and listened. I almost held my breath as I listened to the silence that gripped Trafalgar Square, among the hustle and bustle of commuters rushing for trains, bankers heading home, friends clinking glasses during the heatwave, and the financial hub of the country still ticking away.

Yoga, in that present moment that I remember as I close my eyes, was a microcosm of London. In our busy lives, we can get bogged down by the ordinary, and by everyday tasks, events, work and technology. When we take a moment amidst to sit still, we find that inner silence; just like Trafalgar Square fell into a serene silence within the fast-paced streets and clonking heels of London.

The word ‘Yog’ by definition means to connect; to ourselves, the community, the environment, and if you believe in it, the ‘divine’.

I am not saying we should all grab a mat because I appreciate not everyone wants to practise yoga if though it is a practise that regards itself as universal and for everyone.

What I will say is it’s important in our everyday lives, we make time for ourselves. We make time to love ourselves, our lives and others. I spoke to one organisation backstage, and she said to me: ‘I absolutely love my life’, and I replied ‘how refreshing to hear those words’. We should all be in a state in which we love our lives. Because we are all capable of achieving what we want to achieve. As many yoga instructors taught yesterday, it is a disservice to ourselves to think we cannot achieve something before it has even happened.

If we can connect with our inner Being, we can control our thoughts and mind and therefore control the events and actions that manifest as a result. Our lives are in our hands and every day, we are working to create what we believe in, what we tell ourselves, and what we do.

So, just like the circle of life, I’ll end with the quote with which I began. Focus on your Being, because it’s integral to your ‘doing’.

I would like to thank the High Commission of India, India Tourism Office and Mayor of London for giving me the honour of hosting such a wonderful, global peace-making event. Thank you to all the organisations for being a pleasure to work with. And thank you to my co-host Philippa Blackham who was my partner in ‘divine’.

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