Did you know that there is an official International Yoga Day? Yes, on 21st June, it will already be the 8th time that we celebrate the practice of yoga all around the globe!
The day encourages mental, spiritual and physical wellness through yoga and much like the practice itself, it hopes to promote harmony and unity regardless of place, culture, age or religion.
I’ve done some fact-finding to learn more about the history and significance of the day. I also looked at how international yoga day is celebrated in Australia and around the globe. Read on to find out more.
The History of International Yoga Day
In 2014, the Indian Government proposed the establishment of an International Day of Yoga. In December that year, it was officially voted in and proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly. The UN chose the 21st of June because it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere – Summer Solstice – and is a date of significance in many parts of the world.
But all the official, formal facts aside, the day is a wonderful recognition of the many benefits of yoga, not just as a physical activity but as a holistic approach to well-being, unifying thought and action, mind and body.
“Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”(B.K.S Iyengar, quoted in opening remarks to the UN General Assembly by Indian Prime Minister Modi, 2014)
Yoga for wellness and happiness
On my last count, close to 150 UN international days were observed. Only three of them related to physical activity or sports. That’s if you count chess as a sport!
So, to have yoga recognised by the UN as an important activity to promote mental wellness and a healthy lifestyle is pretty special.
In addition to that, the World Health Organisation has included the practice of yoga in its current Global Action Plan on Physical Activity!
In my mind, yoga is one of the most inclusive activities to support a healthy body and mind. There are no winners or losers, nobody gets knocked out. The finish line is yours to set, and the journey is what counts. You don’t have to build up muscle mass to join in. Age or body shape – and the colour of your activewear – is no concern. Yoga is truly for every body!
These points also make yoga one of the most unifying and comforting activities. Practising yoga in a group of like-minded people, joining a yoga class as a family or signing up for a beginners’ yoga course with your best friend makes you part of a wonderful community. Use the group you are in for encouragement to persevere, to share a calm moment in time, and support each other whilst developing your practice at your own pace.
And what better time to celebrate global yoga day with others than now. We seem to have passed the height of the pandemic and are slowly coming out of our Covid-hibernation. Last year, the UN opted for an online event due to health considerations. But this year, there seems to be a diverse range of in-person and online events and workshops on offer.
Many of us have felt starved of human interaction, fresh air, mixing and mingling. So whether you will be in a yoga studio, relaxing green space, a plaza, in a forest or a community centre, the 21st of June is your chance to get in amongst it – and take a friend!
Global Celebrations of Unity and Harmony
The day’s logo perfectly reflects yoga’s underlying philosophy, the harmony between body and mind and being at one with ourselves and our surroundings. It incorporates the folded hands yoga pose and the four elements (bright colours for fire, green leaves for nature, blue for water and brown leaves for earth).
Given recent global events, its motto, Yoga for harmony and peace, is also a timely and relevant reminder to be respectful to ourselves and one another.
So, how has the world been celebrating? Here’s a tiny snapshot:
The first global yoga day was observed on the 21st of June, 2015. In New Delhi, India. According to newspaper articles, over 36,000 practitioners came together to perform asanas for half an hour to mark this special day.
In 2018, the UN Headquarters in New York became one of the largest outdoor ‘yoga studios’.
And in 2016, thousands of people joined yoga day events across France and its territories. In Paris alone, 2,000 practitioners came together in the city’s largest urban cultural park. Over 100 people practised yoga on a boat on the Seine, between the Eiffel Tower and the Cathedral of Notre Dame.
In 2021, due to the global pandemic, the UN, and many other countries, opted for virtual events. The UN Covid portal continues to offer guided meditation and yoga resources.
In Argentina, international Yoga day is celebrated with events and workshops for over 20 days this year!
International Yoga Day 2022 in Australia
Have a go and google “Community Events International Yoga Day Australia” and you’ll get over 20,000 results! It seems International Yoga Day is celebrated everywhere around the country, from Adelaide to Mermaid Beach QLD, from Brisbane to Geraldton WA and Rapid Creek NT.
Here, in Melbourne, I’ll be teaching my regular Level 2 Class at 9 am on the 21st of June.
However, I’m honoured to be teaching at the China International Day of Yoga Conference as well. The conference is presented by Yoga Journal China and YogaMala, an online yoga platform, and runs for an entire month, starting on the 21st of June.
It will be online for overseas guest teachers and I will be teaching on Sunday, the 3rd of July at 10 am (China time).
Yoga has been part of my daily life for more than four decades. So why the fanfare about one single day in a year?
For me, the International Day of Yoga is the perfect occasion to remember to take time out and look after ourselves, our body and our mind. It is perhaps also somebody’s spark to give yoga a go, learn more about this beautiful practice and make it part of their life’s journey as well.
What will you do on International Yoga Day? If you are looking to start or develop your practice, please contact me. Whether it’s a beginners yoga course, private yoga classes, or a workshop for advanced practitioners, I am sure you will find an option perfect for you.