From Peru’s historic citadel of Machu Picchu to the UN’s sprawling lawns in New York, yoga mats were spread out at iconic landmarks across the world as yoga practitioners June 21 performed ‘asanas’ to mark the third International Yoga Day.
Top UN diplomats, officials, envoys, yoga practitioners and people from all walks of life attended a grand event organized by India’s Permanent Mission to the UN to mark the day at the world body’s headquarters in New York.
Hundreds of specially designed yoga mats were spread across the UN’s sprawling north lawns, facing the imposing UN General Assembly hall and the UN Secretariat building, as people from all walks of life descended on the UN headquarters to participate in the ‘Yoga Session with Yoga Masters’.
Chants, hymns, prayers and the sound of “Om” reverberated across the UN as leading yoga practitioners led the gathering through sessions of yoga and meditation to celebrate the traditional wellness regime that originated in India.
The UN also issued special stamps commemorating the Yoga Day. The UN postal agency, UN Postal Administration, issues the new special event sheet to commemorate the day that has been marked annually since 2015.
Delivering the secretary general’s message on Yoga Day, a top UN official has said that yoga can make an important contribution in achieving a healthy life and promoting well-being for all at a time when the world is striving to achieve sustainable development goals.
At the iconic and historic citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru, one of the modern ‘Seven Wonders of the World’, yoga practitioners stretched themselves in various asanas to mark the day.
Both Machu Picchu and yoga are recognized by UNESCO as a common heritage of the world.
In China, a record number of people participated in yoga events held in several cities across the country.
In Dhaka’s Bangabandhu National Stadium, hundreds of people participated in the IDY event with parliamentary speaker Shirin Sharmin Choudhury opening the celebrations amid enthusiasm.
The program began with the screening of a video message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Nepal also joined the world to mark the day as Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba underlined the need for imparting the ancient knowledge of yoga to students at school-level.
In Pakistan, the Indian High Commission celebrated the Yoga Day on June 18.
The United Nations General Assembly had made a declaration in December 2014 that every June 21 would be observed as International Day of Yoga, a move that India lobbied hard for.
Earlier, in New York, special yoga sessions organized by the Indian Consulate to commemorate the Yoga Day were attended by many people, both from the Indian American community as well as other communities in New York.
Consul General Riva Ganguly Das led the Yoga Day celebrations on the consulate premises June 19 and participated in the yoga and Art of Living sessions.
Das said Yoga Day has grown in popularity in the three years since the day was first marked in 2015. “With the focus on one particular day, it helps promote the message,” she said, adding that many people who might not otherwise try yoga have participated in Yoga Day events.
“People realize the benefits of yoga, and India’s name is intrinsically associated with the day,” she said.
In honor of International Yoga Day, the U.N. has projected images of yoga postures on its headquarters. This is the second year in a row that the U.N. has illuminated its building with images of yoga.
The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations celebrated the day at the United Nations on June 20 followed by a panel discussion on June 21.
The Indian Mission organized a panel discussion at the United Nations involving religious, NGO and yoga organization representatives who presented various aspects and systems of yoga to the audience.
The Institute of International Social Development, an international NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the United Nations, headquartered in India and having branches in Paris, Geneva and New York, presented the practice of Kriya Yoga as taught by Paramahansa Yogananda of ‘An Autobiography’ of a Yogi’ fame.
Shomik Chaudhuri, UN Representative of the Institute in New York, spoke about the organization and its activities that relate to yoga and spirituality, and Sharon Hamilton-Getz, Additional UN Representative of the Institute, spoke about spirituality and yoga.
The UN began the International Day of Yoga celebrations with the release of stamps, a water puja and meditations for peace in the world’s most diverse gathering of nationalities, religions and races.
More than 1,000 people, including permanent representatives of several nations, diplomats, UN staff and yoga enthusiasts attended the outdoor “Yoga Session with Yoga Masters” session June 20 at the UN headquarters on the eve of the Third IDY.
A unique element in this year’s event projecting India’s soft power was the water puja ceremony led by Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji and Sadhvi Bhagwati Sarawastiji of the Paramarta Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh.
As water was symbolically poured over a globe, participants raised their hands heavenwards praying for clean water for all and for reclaiming the sanctity of water, the sustainer of life and the link of humanity.
That meshed in with the UN push for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to better the life of people. Speakers stressed yoga’s place in helping reach them.