United Nations: As millions around the world celebrated the fourth International Yoga Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hoped that yoga can become a "binding force" for the world, asserting it has no religion and contributes to the physical and mental well-being of individuals.
Modi made these remarks while inaugurating the 'YO1 Luxury Nature Cure Centre' in the Catskills area of New York state via video-link.
"The word yoga means to unite. Therefore, this surge of interest in yoga fills me with hope. I hope that yoga can become a binding force for the world," he said in his video address to inaugurate the center, the brainchild of Rajya Sabha MP and Essel Group Chairman Subhash Chandra.
The telecast was viewed by Chandra and several members of the Indian-American community at the center, including Indian-American hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal.
"I always believe that yoga has no religion. It contains practical steps which can benefit everyone, even those who do not consider themselves religious," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said in just three years the International Yoga Day has grown into a worldwide public movement and become an integral part of public life in many countries.
"Its impact has expanded far beyond its day of observance," he said, adding that across nations, the day has become an occasion for initiations of millions of people inspired by the spirit of yoga, who commit themselves to its pursuit.
He added that several people, who already practice yoga, re-dedicate themselves to its pursuit on this day.
Lauding the opening of the center, Modi appreciated that it will create about 2,000 direct and indirect jobs in the area.
"It will thus be a responsible member of the community," he said, adding that the facility will also work to bring the benefit of yoga to all those who come here and contribute significantly to the wellness movement in the US.
Underscoring the global impact of yoga, Modi said interest in the exercise form is growing rapidly in western countries.
"It would be no exaggeration to say that yoga has been appreciated a lot by the western world. In the US alone, more than 20 million people are practicing yoga and this number is increasing at an average of five percent every year," he said.
He noted that several modern medical institutes in the US and in Europe have adopted yoga as an alternative treatment for many disorders.
Modi stressed that the Indian government is committed to implementing evidence-based traditional systems of health care in public health.
The government has also launched nation-wide programmes for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, he said.
Given that India has the world's second-largest population, Modi said the initiatives taken will take some years to show results but he is confident that "tangible results" will soon become visible.
Highlighting the manifold benefits of yoga, Modi said traditional Indian knowledge systems such as yoga and Ayurveda guide people to overcome inherent weaknesses of both body and mind.
"These are systems which treat individuals with care and respect. Their approach is neither intrusive nor abrupt. It often comes as a refreshing change to those used to conventional treatment therapies," he said.
As modern lifestyles take a toll on the body and mind, Modi said it is unfortunate that the focus of the conventional system of healthcare is more on cure rather than on prevention.
"There is no denying that we need conventional medicines to address the huge health challenges of today but it is also a fact that there are gap areas that remain unaddressed," he said.
He added that healthcare specialists all over the world now appreciate the fact that systems like yoga and Ayurveda can complement the conventional medicine systems extremely well.
Emphasising that yoga is not limited to exercises and postures, he said the ancient Indian practice involves a deep search into the body mind and spirit and "leads to greater understanding of oneself, which leads further to social discipline and in turn to ethics and enduring values of life."
Addressing the inauguration, Chandra said the launch of the center was a dream come true for him.
The center has been built as a state-of-art facility and will be a wellness destination that will offer therapies based on ancient Indian Yoga and Pranayam.