Despite beginning not very long ago, in 2015, International Yoga Day has caught on quickly, with the third International Yoga Day, on June 21, 2017, being celebrated by millions of people. International Yoga Day began in 2015, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the UN and convinced it to declare June 21 a special day celebrating yoga and its practice.
The BBC News reported that on Tuesday, June 21, millions of people in over 100 countries around the world “rolled out their yoga mats,” to practice yoga and celebrate International Yoga Day. Ever since he was elected in 2014, Prime Minister Modi has worked to actively promote yoga. He also practices yoga asanas every day.
Prime Minister Modi believes that by promoting knowledge of yoga, he and others are also promoting the country of India. on June 21, International Yoga Day, Modi addressed a crowd estimated to contain tens of thousands of people in a park in the city of Lucknow, performed yoga poses, and told them that people in other countries who do not know anything else about the country are now becoming more and more interested in India through their desire to learn more about yoga.
Reuters reported that Lucknow is the “capital of the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.” Though it was raining in Lucknow while Modi performed yoga poses with the 50,000 or so in the crowd, the rain did not appear to lower the spirits of the people who came there to celebrate International Yoga Day.
According to The India Express, for approximately 20 minutes, Prime Minister Modi performed yoga with about 100 students at the Ramabai Ambedkar grounds in Lucknow. Other political figures that joined Modi at the event were Minister of State for Ayush (Independent Charge) Shripad Yesso Naik, Dinesh Sharma, Governor Ram Naik, and Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.
Critics of Prime Minister Modi say that by his promotion of yoga, he is also politically promoting himself. While that likely has some truth in it, it is also true that by Modi’s promotion of yoga, more people around the world are also learning more about India, its language, culture, and history.
Modi has over 30 million followers on Twitter. He has posted photos of mass yoga sessions from places like Machu Picchu, Colombia, China, the United States, Singapore, Italy, Mexico, and Paraguay.
India’s President Pranab Mukherjee also participated in the third annual International Yoga Day. He took part in yoga poses “at the presidential palace.” Several members of Modi’s cabinet also participated in yoga sessions in different parts of India.
Yoga has changed over time, and every new generation seems to bring something new to the table, like nude yoga, or doing yoga with one’s dogs. However, the Lonavla Yoga Institute’s director, Dr. Manmath Gharote, stated that the prime aim of yoga involves the integration of five aspects of one’s personality.
Many people consider yoga only in terms of a type of stretching, and as an exercise that increases strength and flexibility, and yoga is that for sure. But, it traditionally was also intended to help what Dr. Gharote called the five aspects of “personality” to work together in harmony.
What are the five aspects? Dr. Gharote said they are social, physical, spiritual, emotional and mental. Many practitioners of yoga focus on the physical aspects, he said, which helps people have more flexibility in their joints, spine, and muscles, but he stated that the asanas, or postures, that practitioners get into while performing yoga have the ultimate purpose of benefiting “the mind.”
Amazingly enough, well-known sequences and asanas people perform in yoga are not at all ancient. For instance, Surya Namaskar, or “Sun Salutation” and the famous “Downward Dog” asana are not found in any ancient volumes about yoga. Yoga history researcher, Dr. Jim Mallinson, said that Sun Salutations only began being taught in the 1930s.
Learning yoga asanas and benefiting from practicing them can be done inexpensively, for little or no money. According to The India Express, Prime minister Modi told the crowd at Lucknow that “yoga can provide health benefits free of cost.” If a person wants to buy special mats and clothing, and pay for classes, though, it can run into some money and get to be expensive.
There have been numerous businesses that have sprung up, related to selling clothes and other products, like DVDs and books, to help teach people how to perform various asanas. Yoga has become a big economic force, and “is estimated to be worth around $80 billion.”
The third annual International Yoga Day was celebrated by yoga practitioners in countries around the world on Wednesday, June 21. Participation in the yearly celebration of all things yoga has increased every year since the day officially began, in 2015, when India’s Prime Minister Modi suggested the idea during an address speaking in front of the UN.
By John Samuels
Photo Courtesy President of India/Twitter