“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It 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. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” These were the words of Indian Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi during his address to UN General Assembly 27th September 2014 proposing an idea of celebration of Yoga Day throughout the world. The members of UN invited the proposal and appreciated the efforts of Mr. Modi towards the cause.
There have been several efforts for the celebration of a Yoga Day internationally. In 2001, Jagat Guru Amrta Suryananda Maharaja invited the world on 21st June to celebrate the Day of Yoga. This day is considered to be very auspicious as it the longest day of the year in Northern hemisphere. The Solstice of June 21st is considered to be cosmic auspice and day of light according to Hindu tradition. This celebration still continues in Lisbon, Portugal with numerous individuals practising Yoga together. The city of Rishikesh is considered to be Yoga capital of the world and every year, the last week of February is celebrated as Yoga week by people coming from all over the globe for this special occasion. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and his organisation Art of Living have also been a part of proposals of this occasion.
United Nations General Assembly declared 21st June as International Yoga Day on 11th December 2014. The international media gives the credit of this declaration to Mr. Modi, whose government has been kind enough to bring out the proposal internationally and also to individuals like BKS Iyengar and Swami Ramdev, who have done lots to encourage people to take up Yoga all around the world. This initiative has found support from 177 countries including USA, Canada and China with 175 countries co-sponsoring it, which in itself is a record number. Government of India plans to organise a camp on 21st June on Rajpath, New Delhi. A distance of 1.4km will be converted into a yoga arena with a plan to accommodate around 50,000 enthusiasts taking part. The event will be broadcasted on Times Square to world audience with several schools also supporting the initiative. This will be a Guinness world record of Longest Yoga chain been organised at a particular place.
Recent religious differences in India have led to exclusion of Surya Namaskar from the Yoga Day events. The move was defended well by the Central Government of India stating that Yoga is not related to a particular religion or sect of people, it can be practiced by all irrespective of his religion, race or caste. This initiative has enhanced the image of Yoga and Indian culture globally as people have appreciated the benefits of Yoga in every corner of the world. This is a major step towards global peace and protecting environment with sustainable living which would ensure quality living for generations to come.