Speech by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, at the International Day of Yoga

“It’s great to be here with so many like-minded people in this beautiful location to pay tribute to this fine sport. And I say ‘sport’ because that’s how many Dutch people view yoga: something that they do for an hour after work every Tuesday or Wednesday. But for many people around the world, it’s a way of life. It’s about making healthier choices. Good for both body and soul. In tune with nature.”

Speech by Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen at the Opening Ceremony of International Yoga Day on Museumplein Amsterdam, 17 June 2018.

Mr Ambassador, Gurudji Ravi Shankar, yoga aficionados!

What a wonderful day. It’s great to be here with so many like-minded people in this beautiful location to pay tribute to this fine sport. And I say ‘sport’ because that’s how many Dutch people view yoga: something that they do for an hour after work every Tuesday or Wednesday. But for many people around the world, it’s a way of life. It’s about making healthier choices. Good for both body and soul. In tune with nature. Good for individuals as well as good for the world. And as such, so much more than a sport.

That’s why I was delighted to accept the invitation to be here today at the opening of this global event! Gurudji Ravi Shankar, we met before at the European Parliament. It’s an honour to receive you here in the Netherlands.

You’ll be asking yourselves, what is a Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management doing at a ceremony to mark International Yoga Day? Well, I’ll tell you.

Three weeks ago I was in India, with a trade mission headed by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
It wasn’t the first time I’d been there, but once again I was impressed by India and its can-do approach. Demonstrating self-confidence and great ambition, the country is working hard not only to grow its economy, but to do so sustainably.

Dutch businesses are contributing to efforts to clean up the Ganges, India’s sacred river.
And the Netherlands is helping to build sustainable and healthy metropolitan regions and cities. By providing assistance in areas like waste management, urban planning and wastewater treatment. The ties between India and the Netherlands go back 400 years and are still very strong.

A country of illustrious history, India has given so much to the world. It is the birthplace of major religions, like Hinduism and Buddhism. It is known for its nonviolent protest. And it’s the birthplace of yoga.

Yoga has become popular all over the world. In her history of yoga, Stefanie Syman called it ‘the first and most successful product of globalisation.’ Not Coca-Cola, but yoga! Yoga is practised from Japan to South America and from Canada to Australia.

In the Netherlands, too, yoga’s message is spreading. The fact that today we’re on Museumplein, and not, as in previous years, in the atrium of The Hague’s City Hall, shows this very clearly. City Hall became too small!

You are perhaps aware of the origin of International Yoga Day. India’s Prime Minister Modi was looking for a way to spread ‘India’s gift to the world’ yet further, aware that a change of lifestyle and greater mindfulness would benefit people’s health worldwide. And eventually, he added, it may even help us tackle climate change! In December 2014, the UN adopted a resolution making 21 June International Day of Yoga.

I must confess, the exercises I do to keep fit aren’t worthy to be called yoga. But I’m all for yoga, its practitioners and the underlying goals of Prime Minister Modi! I wish you all an enjoyable day.

Thank you.