An International Yoga Day meeting in the UK Parliament made a strong case for yoga to be incorporated into the National Health Service

The message from the International Yoga Day meeting in Parliament on 21 June, addressed by politicians, scientists, doctors and academics, and attended by over 150 invited guests packed into the largest committee room in Parliament, was that the National Health Service urgently needs yoga and other Indian Traditional Sciences in order to meet the changing health needs of the 21st century.

The meeting was held in the Houses of Parliament to celebrate the fourth UN International Yoga Day and 70 years of the NHS. It was co-hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Indian Traditional Sciences and the High Commissions of India and Sri Lanka.

Bob Blackman MP, co-chair of the APPG on Indian Traditional Sciences, saw the role of the APPG as inspiring the NHS to not just treat ill people but to encourage them to live more healthily and thereby enjoy longer, better lives. He was delighted to say that yoga is now, to some extent, recognised by the NHS. Speaking of Ayurveda, another health approach promoted by the APPG, Mr Blackman said that ‘if something has been used for thousands of years it must have something going for it, even if it is not a product of modern pharmaceutical companies.’

Amarjeet S. Bhamra, Secretariat at the APPG on Indian Traditional Sciences, underlined the progress that has been made since last year, welcoming the sincere support received from the co-chairmen, MPs Bob Blackman and Virendra Sharma, and all members of this APPG. He also spoke of PM Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK on 18 April and the setting up of the Ministry of AYUSH by Mr Modi. It is surely significant, added Mr Bhamra, that the Prince of Wales comprehends the importance and far-reaching benefits of the Indian Traditional Sciences in a valid integrated health system.

Expressing his delight to be participating in various APPG Indian Traditional Sciences events, the Hon. Srinivas Gotru, Minister of Culture at the Indian High Commission, offered thanks to Bob Blackman for being such a staunch supporter of this form of healthcare. He also lauded the vision of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he instigated the launch of International Yoga Day at the United Nations, saying that definite progress is being made, year after year.

Sri Lanka’s Acting High Commissioner to the UK, H.E. Mr Sugeeshwara Gunaratna, extended his gratitude at being invited to participate in this event. The knowledge of the benefits of yoga are spreading in Sri Lanka, he said, and it has been inherited as an Indian Traditional Science. As the world is such a complex place now, yoga’s benefits to health are even more important, along with mindfulness and meditation which are all part of the yoga tradition, bringing people together.

Other participants in the meeting included academics, medical professionals and yogis. Professor Madan Thangavelu of Cambridge University spoke of how ‘the rooted commitments’ of India, the UK and the APPG on Indian Traditional Sciences had resulted in the Centre for Excellence for Yoga and Ayurveda in London, while Dr Shantha Godagama, former director of the multidisciplinary Tyringham Clinic, said that the practise of yoga should not to be generalised, but personalised and geared to each person’s personal needs. Professor Tony Nader, a medical doctor specialising in brain and cognitive science, cited published research showing the significant and sometimes dramatic effects of Transcendental Meditation (TM) on physical disorders, and Sri M, a modern yogi with a mission to inspire mankind towards peace and harmony, pointed out that yoga asanas are known to have an effect on the endocrine system, though he added that yoga is more than just physical exercise.

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