International Yoga Day: A Landmark Event for Holistic Well-being

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International Yoga Day
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International Yoga Day

“Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being” – Narendra Modi

India has always been the fountainhead of spiritual thought and philosophy for centuries and the understanding, belief and practice of yoga has been its integral part. Recognising the importance and need to practice yoga in achieving a healthy balance between mind and body, the United Nations (UN) will be celebrating 21 June as the International Yoga Day.

Yoga has been one of India’s most important contribution to the world with a universal aim of introducing it as means to adopt a holistic approach to life. The UN General Assembly has formally recognised this when it adopted an India-led resolution to recognise the year’s longest day in the Northern Hemisphere as International Yoga Day.

The Initiative Leading to the Recognition

There have been many ambassadors of yoga from India who have contributed and are still contributing to the spread of yoga globally, but India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will always be remembered as the man who took the initiative to bring yoga at the forefront of global consciousness, when he made the suggestion to celebrate 21 June as International Yoga Day, during his first speech to the UN General Assembly on 27 September 2014.

This was pro-actively followed up by India’s Ambassador to the UN, Asoke Mukherji, who introduced the draft resolution and found strong support from 177 nations. In an unprecedented move, on 22 October 2014, the UN swiftly adopted the draft resolution and declared 21 June as International Yoga Day.

Celebrations Worldwide

PM heads a high-powered committee to co-ordinate and monitor celebrations of the first ever International Yoga Day celebrations.

On 28 May 2015, the PM chaired a high-level committee to oversee the preparations for global celebration of International Yoga Day with ‘synergy’ as the central theme.

Massive celebrations have been planned in India and overseas, which involves well-known Yoga gurus, spiritual leaders, well-known personalities and of course, India’s now very pro-active Indian diaspora.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, along with General Assembly President Sam Kutesa, will lead the inaugural commemoration ceremony of the International Yoga Day at the UN on 21 June. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, will preside over the celebrations, while ‘The Art of Living’ founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, will hold a special lecture-demonstration, as part of the overall celebrations.

How Will the US Observe International Yoga Day?

Amongst a series of global celebrations planned, the one in the Times Square (New York) will take centre stage. The UN’s celebrations are scheduled to be broadcast ‘live’ to thousands of enthusiasts expected to gather there as part of the celebrations. Mass yoga demonstrations are also being planned at the location.

Several Indian-origin groups are planning to coordinate mass yoga sessions across the United States. In a first, Overseas Volunteers for Better India (OVBI), along with 70 other organizations, will be joining hands to organise mass yoga demonstrations in over 100 cities in the US.

Indian missions in several countries have been asked to lend support in organising yoga lecture-demonstrations in respective countries, in association with local Indian communities. For the first time, yoga demonstrations will be held on the same day, in over 250 cities spread across 190 countries.

Government’s Support for Promotion of Yoga

Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy) is aiming at the Guinness Book of World Records with mass Yoga on 21 June.

At 7 am on 21 June, the entire span of Rajpath in New Delhi is expected to be covered with around 40,000 people, all simultaneously performing yoga ‘asanas’ in a 35-minute routine, in an attempt to create a world record for mass yoga. The AYUSH ministry is lending full support in making this a historic event that is bound to draw global attention. The Union Minister Shripad Naik of AYUSH, is personally supervising all efforts in making the event a success. The ministry will be arranging over 40,000 mats for the participants.

The government has been serious in promoting Yoga along with Ayurveda, Naturopathy and Homeopathy and has allocated Rs 205.36 crore towards non-plan expenditure for FY ‘15-’16.

Recent Controversies Regarding Yoga And Its Introduction in Schools

Certain Muslim groups in India have been objecting to making yoga compulsory in schools. Their main objection is to the chanting of ‘Om’ as part of performing the ‘Surya Namaskar.’ Shripad Naik, the Minister for AYUSH, has gone on record to allay apprehensions of the Muslim community by clarifying that ‘Surya Namaskar’ is being dropped from the routine and participants may chant ‘Allah’s’ name in lieu of ‘Om’ in various ‘shlokas’ while practicing yoga. Certain Muslim groups have called yoga ‘un-Islamic’, while several others have clarified that they would not object to yoga being introduced in schools.

In the context of this year’s 21 June celebrations, the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, raised their objection to Sunday being used for celebrations, as it was a sacred day for their followers. They, however, clarified that the community was not against the practice or introduction of yoga.

The government is working to introduce a curriculum that will take into account the objections of the minority community and ensure maximum participation.

The International Yoga Day on 21 June will be remembered as the landmark moment in the history when the world officially recognises India’s contribution towards introducing the benefits of yoga, as a means of achieving holistic well-being for all.

Recent Developments

21 June 2015

  • The Delhi event at Rajpath made it to Guinness World Records Book as 35,985 participants along with PM Narendra Modi performed asanas at a single venue. Another record was made during this event as participants from 84 nationalities performed asanas during the event.
  • UN also celebrated the International Yoga Day. UN secretary general Ban-ki-moon also performed some asanas and meditated under the guidance of spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. External Minister Sushma Swaraj also attended the event at New York’s Times Square.

20 June 2015

  • State-run carrier Air India will do its bit to promote the International Yoga mid-air. On 21 June, it will show a film on yoga across its flights, along with special in-flight announcement.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj left for New York on Friday night to participate in the International Yoga Day event organised by the Indian Embassy at the United Nations.
  • Around 30,000 people in Vadodara will participate in programmes related to International Yoga Day. Around 20,000 of them will perform yoga at a sports complex in Sama locality in presence of Gujarat Finance Minister Saurabh Patel.
  • Inmates of Tihar jail, the country’s largest prison, practiced yoga on Saturday ahead of the International Yoga Day. Around 10,000 inmates have been practicing yoga on a regular basis. The jail authorities had organised a month-long training programme for the inmates. It will conclude on 21 June.
  • Delhi Metro started its special train services from Saturday to provide hassle free commuting during International Yoga Day celebration on 21 June. This two-day service will be available on all the lines of the Delhi Metro, except the Airport Express Line.

19 June 2015

  • Filmmaker Madhur Bhandarkar will be the special Guest of Honour at the UN on 21 June for the International Yoga Day celebrations.
  • Thousands of participants took part in rehearsal at Rajpath to perform in the event scheduled for 21 June.
  • A 40-year-old man in UAE is planning to perform the longest Shirshasana on International Yoga Day in Dubai.
  • The Rashtrapati Bhavan will also commemorate the International Yoga Day celebration on 21 June.
  • Changing their stand, Uttarakhand state has now decided to celebrate International Yoga Day on 21 June.
  • The top officers of the Delhi Police have been appointed to provide security during the mass event to be organised at Rajpath on International Yoga Day.
  • In Rajasthan, the International Yoga Day will be celebrated at 10,000 different places and lakhs of people will celebrate the same.

18 June 2015

  • The Art of Living Foundation will be organising a free yoga session in Coimbatore in the Tamil Nadu state at 6.30 a.m. on 21 June 2015.
  • A group of 41 foreign students of Delhi University will participate in the mass event of International Yoga Day celebrations at the Rajpath.
  • Boxer MC Mary Kom will be the chief guest in the event to be organised in Dubai by the Indian Consulate on 21 June 2015.
  • The University of Mysore will be organising a mega yoga session at the Sports Pavilion at 7 a.m. in the Manasagangotri campus.
  • The physically challenged students of the state government-run ‘Institute for Visually-Handicapped’ are practicing yoga ahead of the Yoga Day celebrations worldwide.

17 June 2015

  • Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat said that officially the state will not be taking part in the Yoga Day celebrations and termed this event as ‘propagandist exercise’.
  • Over 30,000 people are expected to participate in the mass event to be celebrated in Times Square in New York.
  • The government of West Bengal has decided to celebrate the International Yoga Day, taking a risk of annoying the minority community who is opposing the celebrations of this day.
  • The defence forces will also participate in the worldwide event. About 500 army troops are likely to practice yoga to mark the day at Siachen base camp which is about 12,000 ft above sea level. Also, the units of the Indian Navy located in as far as the Western Pacific Ocean, the Mediterranean Sea in the West and the Southern Indian Ocean will also be participating in the event.
  • The security agencies have launched a special operation, ‘DOGA’ to ensure safety and security at Rajpath during the large-scale celebration of International Yoga Day. Trained sniffer dogs will be deployed in the entire area to ensure safety.

16 June 2015

  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said yoga does not discriminate and everyone can practice it regardless of their relative strength.
  • As a part of the celebrations of the International Yoga Day on 21 June, the administration of Hassan district of Karnataka organised a walkathon on 16 June in which people from different education institutions and yoga centres participated.
  • Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, who is also the national ambassador for yoga, will be a part of an event in Bengaluru to be celebrated on the International Yoga Day on 21 June. The event will be held at the Kanteerava Stadium on the same day. A marathon has also been organised at 7.30 a.m. from Cubbon Park to Kanteerava in which the state’s chief minister along with his cabinet will also participate.
  • The Indian Embassy in Cairo will organise an event on 21 June at the India House in Zamalek in which a number of Egyptianm schools and institutions will participate.

15 June 2015

  • PM Narendra Modi will not participate in the yoga session to be held at Rajpath, but will address a speech at 7 a.m. before the beginning of the actual yoga performances.
  • Haryana will also be celebrating the International Yoga Day. The state’s chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar said besides celebrating the ‘International Yoga Day’, 1000 ‘vyayam shalas’ will be open in the rural areas of the state to impart yoga training to the youth.
  • To commemorate the International Yoga Day on 21 June, the Indian embassies across 20 nations will organise an exhibition of photographs by Benoy K. Behl, an art historian.
  • The Delhi Traffic Police has issued a traffic advisory about diversions for the vehicular movement on Rajpath and other connecting roads in view of the International Yoga Day celebrations on 21 June.

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