Legendary actor, activist, author and teacher Anupam Kher was among the distinguished speakers at the United Nations’ International Day of Yoga special event on June 21.
#HeForShe ambassador Kher was in New York to promote his 500th film The Big Sick, which is now playing. He was also honored at Jerry Lewis’
Legionnaires of Laughter Gala. Other speakers at the United Nations included World Health Organization Executive Director Nata Menabde, Dr. Bruce H. Lipton, Swami Chidanand Saraswati, Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati, Stanton Kawer, Swami Sivadasananda and former NFL player Keith Mitchell. Each panelist reflected on how they discovered yoga and the benefits it has on the body, mind and soul.
“Yoga taught me that you should do what makes you happy,” Mr. Kher said. He spoke about his humble beginnings. Fourteen people lived in his small house. His grandfather taught and practiced yoga. He fondly remembers him doing the head stand pose. Whenever any family member had an issue, his grandfather would recommend doing the head stand pose and suddenly all problems would be forgotten. His grandfather also taught the family the importance of breathing (Pranayama). When anxious, he would encourage everyone to breathe and relax.
“Yoga taught us to be happy with whatever God gave us, we were a happy family, we were not very rich and my grandfather used to always say ‘when you are very poor the cheapest thing available is happiness.'” This theory had a lot to do with his practice of Yoga. He was a calm man. With so many relatives in their humble house, he would say “every time you bang into each other, just hug each other.”
For Mr. Kher, being happy is a state of mind and comes from within. At one point in his career, he suffered from facial paralysis. To heal, he practiced yoga and breathing. He maintained his optimism, and despite what could have been a major setback, he did get better. “For me, yoga is having a truthful, honest conversation with yourself,” he shared.
Yoga was also his first job when he went to Mumbai to pursue acting in the 1980’s and he continues to use breathing exercises to prepare for all performances and scenes to this day.
He added that we are frightened to stand out from the crowd. We are always worried that if we stand out, we won’t fit in. However, if we place our happiness in someone else’s hands, we will never be happy. “Yoga teaches you to be happy for yourself.” It’s important to laugh every day.
“When you’re trying to be someone else, you can neither be yourself nor the other person … That’s what personality is all about … being comfortable in who you are. Just be yourself and that will be yoga’s contribution to your life, your own contribution to your life. You can only contribute in your life, if you love yourself, if you make yourself happy,” Mr. Kher concluded on an inspirational note.
Following the enlightening panel, the beloved actor spent time greeting his fans, posing for photos and signing autographs.
Below are some pictures and videos from Mr. Kher’s visit to New York: