Millions roll out mats as India – and the globe – celebrate International Day of Yoga

New Delhi: Yoga was the mantra and ‘asanas’ the discipline on Wednesday as millions across the globe and distant corners of India stretched for the skies and dived for their toes, breathed in and out – mindfully – and twisted and turned to celebrate the International Day of Yoga.

The day began with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s early morning video message from the US, where he is on a state visit, saying India has always nurtured traditions that unite, adopt and embrace.

“We have to eliminate our contradictions, blockages and resistances through yoga. We have to present the spirit of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’ as an example to the world,” Modi said.

Later in the day, he will lead celebrations at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

“The coming together of more than 180 countries on India’s call is historic and unprecedented,” he said, referring to the proposal for the International Day of Yoga that was moved in the UN General Assembly in 2014.

Modi said the day was special this year as researchers at India’s research stations in the Arctic and Antarctica were also participating in the celebrations.

And back home, many millions joined in — from the heights of Ladakh to underwater depths in Kerala, on board the INS Vikrant and in the Vande Bharat Express as it chugged its way from Bhopal to New Delhi, from open expanses to studios, homes and offices.

Some rolling out mats against historic, picturesque backdrops such as Parliament and Delhi’s Purana Quila, and others adapting to space constraints — like in the Vande Bharat — doing asanas that did not require stretching out or practising pranayam on chairs.

Describing yoga as India’s great gift to the world, President Droupadi Murmu shared a picture of her doing yoga on Twitter.

‘Yoga brings together the body and the mind and it is a holistic approach to life… Yoga helps us all to be in a better position to meet the increasing challenges around us. On this day, I urge everyone to adopt yoga in their daily lives and experience its transformative power,’ she tweeted.

The national celebration of the 9th International Day of Yoga was led by Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur city.

Terming yoga a symbol of world unity, he asked Indians and people from across the globe to adopt the wellness discipline.

Yoga, the vice president said, has become a universal festival because of India’s efforts.

The theme this year is Vasudhaiva Kutumbukam’ (the world is one family). Taking part in a programme held at the Garrison Ground in Jabalpur, Dhankhar said, “Yoga is not a one day event, but a daily exercise and we should take the resolve to follow it religiously as called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi…”

“This day is the day of message of universal brotherhood and it reflects our cultural thinking of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the world is one family),” he said in the Madhya Pradesh city.

In neighbouring Gujarat’s Surat town, more than one lakh people gathered, which state minister Harsh Sanghavi claimed was a ‘new Guinness World Record’ for the largest gathering of people for a yoga session at one place.

Across the state, an estimated 1.25 crore people took part in the Yoga Day celebrations, said Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel.

“We witnessed how yoga and pranayam helped people during the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

Addressing the media in Kochi after joining hundreds of Navy personnel in doing yoga on board INS Vikrant, India’s first indigenously built aircraft carrier, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said it was a matter of pride for India that yoga was being celebrated globally as it shows the world is acknowledging the country’s rich culture and also adopting it.

A host of chief ministers, ministers and governors performed asanas in their respective corners of the country.

In Delhi, for instance, Union ministers Hardeep Singh Puri, Mansukh Mandaviya and Piyush Goyal and Delhi Lt Governor V K Saxena took part in various events organised in the city.

Union Petroleum Minister Puri said in a tweet, ‘Yoga for ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam‘! Joined exponents and practitioners of yoga in a global celebration of the ancient practice of fitness at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.’

In Andhra Pradesh, Governor S Abdul Nazeer participated in the day’s event at the Raj Bhavan and said yoga reduces stress.

And in Arunachal Pradesh, Governor Lt Gen K T Parnaik (Retd) echoed him and appealed to the people of the state to practice yoga regularly for a healthier lifestyle.

“It is an amalgam of body, mind and soul,” Patnaik said.

In Goa’s capital city Panaji, delegates gathered for the G-20 Tourism Ministerial Meeting performed various asanas’ in the Raj Bhavan.

Wearing matching t-shirts bearing the G20 logo, ‘GOA’ and ‘Yoga for Harmony & Peace’, delegates from Australia, Germany, Italy and South Korea, as well as several tourism ministry officials performed some of the common yoga protocols under the guidance of an instructor.

Dieter Janecek, head of the German delegation to the G20 meetings in Goa, said yoga is popular in Germany too and it can help further cooperation between the two countries.

The day was not without some political controversy.

The opposition Congress remembered India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, saying he was instrumental in popularising yoga and even made it a part of national policy. It also also shared a photograph of Nehru performing yoga and doing a headstand.

Senior party leader Shashi Tharoor added to this and said, ‘Indeed! We should also acknowledge all those who revived and popularised yoga, including our government, @PMOIndia @MEAIndia, for internationalising International Yoga Day through the @UN.’

Recognising its universal appeal, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga by a resolution in December 2014.

The draft resolution establishing the International Day of Yoga was proposed by India and endorsed by a record 175 member states.

The proposal was first introduced by Modi and accepted in 2014.