The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on 21 June since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in his UN address suggested the date of 21 June, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world.
The first International Day of Yoga created a record for the largest yoga class and another for the largest number of participating nationalities.
Its theme for 2020 is “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family”
The idea of International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), on 27 September 2014. He stated:
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.
— Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly
Following this initial proposal, the UNGA held informal consultations on the draft resolution, entitled “International Day of Yoga”, on 14 October 2014. The consultations were convened by the delegation of India. In 2015 Reserve Bank of India issued a 10 rupees commemorative coin to mark the International Day of Yoga.
On 11 December 2014, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Mukherji introduced the draft resolution in the United Nations General Assembly. The draft text received broad support from 177 Member States who sponsored the text, which was adopted without a vote. This initiative found support from many global leaders. A total of 177 nations co-sponsored the resolution, which is the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA Resolution of such nature.
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When proposing 21 June as the date, Modi said that the date was the longest day of the year in the mass northern hemisphere (shortest in the southern hemisphere), having special significance in many parts of the world. From the perspective of yoga, the summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana. The second full moon after summer solstice is known as Guru Poornima. Shiva, the first yogi (Adi Yogi), is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to the rest of mankind on this day and became the first guru (Adi Guru).
Following the adoption of the UN resolution, several leaders of the spiritual movement in India voiced their support for the initiative. The founder of the Isha Foundation, Sadhguru, stated, “this could be a kind of a foundation stone to make a scientific approach to the inner well-being of the human being, a worldwide thing… It’s a tremendous step for the world.” The founder of Art of Living, Ravi Shankar, lauded the efforts of Modi, saying, “It is very difficult for any philosophy, religion or culture to survive without state patronage. Yoga has existed so far almost like an orphan. Now, official recognition by the UN would further spread the benefit of yoga to the entire world.”
The first International Day of Yoga was observed around the world on 21 June 2015. The Ministry of AYUSH made the necessary arrangements in India. 35,985 people, including PM Modi and dignitaries from 84 nations, performed 21 asanas (yoga postures) for 35 minutes at Rajpath in New Delhi, becoming the largest yoga class ever held, and with the largest number—84—of participating nationalities. and for the largest number of participating nationalities (84 nations). Similar days have been held in cities in India and around the world each year since then.
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The first Yoga Day celebration was held at Rajpath in New Delhi, where PM Modi and other dignitaries also performed around 21 yoga asanas and created two Guinness World Records. The first record was for being the world’s largest yoga class with 35,985 people and the second one was for having the maximum number of participating nationalities, that is 84. Last year in Dehradun, Modi had performed yoga with over 50,000 enthusiasts.