Once an obscure practice in pre-Vedic India, yoga has now gained unprecedented prominence worldwide. This year, over 180 countries participated in the celebration of International Yoga Day, starting from the United Nations Headquarters in New York, which was lit up with the word “yoga” projected on it.
The International Day of Yoga was created by the United Nations in 2014 to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. The proposal was first introduced by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, who said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action.”
Organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, the theme for the 2017 celebration was “Yoga for Health.” It emphasized the holistic benefits of yoga and its contribution to humankind’s pursuit to move towards lifestyles that are in harmony with nature.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a crowd of 45,000 yoga practitioners in a mass yoga session at Ramabhai Ambedkar Sabha Sthal in Lucknow, India.
"There are many countries which don't know our language, are not aware about Indian culture or traditions but they too are practicing yoga,” said Modi. “Much like it connects the mind with the soul, yoga is playing an important role in connecting the world.”
The Summer Energizing Retreat at the Suryalila Retreat Center in Southern Spain – a seven-day festival featuring yoga workshops, meditations, classes, and dance – celebrated International Yoga Day with 108 sun salutations in 10 different languages.
On June 20, 2017, the Yoga Session with Yoga Masters was held at the United Nations North Lawn. In addition to featuring three esteemed yoga masters, the event saw the unveiling of UN Postal Administration’s special Yoga Day commemorative stamp.
Thousands of yogis from all over the world gathered in New York’s Times Square for “Solstice in Times Square: Mind Over Madness”, to celebrate the Summer Solstice with day-long free yoga classes.
The International Yoga Day in Australia took place in its iconic Bondi Beach, beginning with a history of the annual celebration, followed by yoga sessions and discussions, including Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Yoga Nartana (Yoga Dance), and ending with a presentation by the Refugee Yoga Project, a yoga program integrated within trauma services for refugees in Australia.
Its third year in celebrating International Yoga Day, Japan is the only country to establish a Parliamentary League for the promotion of yoga, during the visit of Art of Living Founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Japan in April 2017.
In collaboration with the Egyptian government, The Indian embassy organized yoga events in Cairo, Alexandria, and Ismailia to celebrate the Day of Yoga. India’s ambassador to Cairo Sanjay Bhattacharyya said, “This time is very special as there is a strong connection between the spirit of yoga and the spirit of Ramadan.” Multiple yoga flash mobs were seen at the Pyramids, Qasr el-Nil, and Tahrir Square.