Yoga has been around for many centuries, but its official festivity, the International Day of Yoga (IDY), is only entering its 5thannual celebration.
And what exactly is it all about? In a nutshell, this day serves to raise awareness about our beloved practice and all the benefits anyone can attain through it. From stress relief and a more flexible body to a healthier lifestyle, most of us could use a little bit of yoga.
We still have a long way to go to spread the word about all that yoga can give us. With the participation of all yogis, we can inspire others to hop on the mat and feel the benefits by themselves.
Also referred to as International Yoga Day or World Yoga Day, it is what this day is essentially all about – to further raise the awareness of yoga across the globe.
In this guide to International Day of Yoga, you’ll find:
- History of IDY – how it started and its purpose
- Previous years’ celebrations and themes
- Upcoming events and activities happening in India and across the world
- What you can do to partake in the celebration to make Yoga Day 2019 the best one yet.
How did it start?
Yoga might have waited quite a bit to have its ‘own’ day, but thanks to India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, since 2014 this special occasion is observed all over the world.
Being such an ingrained part of India’s history, the Prime Minister went to the United Nations in 2014 with a proposal to create a special day for yoga. In the assembly, he gave an inspiring speech that convinced more than 170 countries to approve the International Day of Yoga, which would take place annually on June 21st.
“Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition.Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action… a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it’s a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” — Prime Minister Modi at the UN General Assembly.
In its first year (2015), around 36,000 yogis gathered in New Delhi for a record-breaking event, where people of over 80 nationalities performed the largest yoga session in history (although the number has increased every year since then). It marked the biggest celebration of the first ever Day of Yoga with the theme of yoga for harmony and peace.
The reason why PM Modi and the UN assembly had selected June 21st is because of the significant relevance of this date. This is when the summer solstice occurs, which is the day with the most sunlight of the year and an ideal time for transformation. No better excuse for a couple of sun salutations to recharge one’s body and mind!
What’s the purpose of International Yoga Day?
IDY was created to recognize its universal appeal. It reminds us that yoga is for everyone regardless of our beliefs, nationality, religion, race, gender, etc. Its intention is to keep spreading the word about the benefits of yoga all throughout the world, a hectic world that could use that peace of mind gained through the practice.
However, every year has had a different specific purpose. 2015’s celebration was aimed at yoga for harmony and peace. The reason? Well, that’s probably what humanity needs the most – to live peacefully and harmoniously.
2016 focused on the youth and the necessity to connect with the younger population. Connect the youth was the theme to remind us of the importance of new generations. Promoting yoga among children and stimulating mindfulness from early ages is the way to go to create a better world.
In 2017, the focus of IDY turned to the wellness of body and mind. Yoga for health was the slogan, encouraging yogis and non-yogis alike to live a healthier lifestyle. The asana practice (poses) on the mat is a good starting point, but there are many more factors we can incorporate to our routine like a balanced diet, a couple of meditation sessions, good relationships and a positive mindset.
Last year, it was decided to go back to yoga for peace. With so many conflicts and polarization around the world, it seemed like a good time to push for a peaceful planet, for it to become a better and safer home for all.
Yoga Day 2019: Taking care of nature
Everybody knows that we need to take care of our planet if we want to keep calling it home for years to come. Well, this may not entirely be true. Unfortunately, there are those who are still in denial of climate change and ignore the irreparable damage that humankind has inflicted.
In an effort to stress the importance of taking good care of Mother Earth while we still can, it’s been decided that this year’s theme for IDY will be climate action. And while a yoga session won’t reduce global warming on its own, the practice does teach us to connect with nature and respect all forms of life on a daily basis.
How has the world celebrated?
What started in New Delhi has expanded to other cities in India. The original record for the largest yoga class didn’t last for long. Not only has the number increased year after year, but in 2018, an estimated 200,000 people gathered in Kota to enter the Guinness Book of World Records.
This year, there’ll be plenty of more events to celebrate, public yoga sessions, festivals and yoga retreats in India. But the festivities aren’t exclusive to India, many countries all across the globe have joined as well. From China to the USA, there have been spectacular events to commemorate IDY, and these are some of the most representative:
The Eiffel Tower had one of the most emblematic celebrations of IDY 2018. On June 17th, thousands of people gathered in front of the iconic structure for an incredible yoga session. Paris had a high commitment with the event and also had yoga session at the Grand Halle de la Villette and another one on-board the Bateaux-Mouches on the Seine river.
In 2018, the Embassy of India in Jakarta organized a series of events throughout 10 cities in the Indonesian archipelago. Malang, Bandung, Surabaya, Medan and Bali were some of the places where IDY events where held. But the Prambanan Temple Complex in Yogyakarta was the highlight, where over 10,000 yogis simultaneously performed their asanas.
Being one of the most traditional countries for yoga, Nepal couldn’t fall behind. They took the practice to ‘new heights’ at the Muktinath Temple, situated 12,500 feet above sea level in Kathmandu. Monks, locals and visitors performed a yoga sequence, transforming the sacred temple into the most mystical studio on Earth.
If Nepal brought the Zen-mystique, New York has its frenzy counterpart in Times Square. Each year, people from all over the world gather in front of the red steps for a massive demonstration of yoga. The event, Solstice in Times Square, has been organized for about 15 years. With over 12,000 participants in 2018, it’s now considered one of the most popular events to celebrate International Day of Yoga.
Yoga was brought to China around the late 1980s by the famous yoga teacher, Wai Lana. Since then, the popularity of yoga in this country has been rapidly increasing. Last year, it was the second country with most people celebrating IDY after India. The official event took place at the Indian Embassy in Beijing where over 500 practitioners joined for an open-door yoga session.
Events for the 2019 International Day of Yoga Worldwide
The official event is going to be a yoga session with recognized masters at the United Nations to celebrate the fifth IDY on Thursday, June 20th. It will be followed by a panel on the 21st where topics about the environment and yoga will be discussed.
However, the Ministry of Ayush, the Nodal Ministry of Yoga, has commanded to start with the preparations 50 days before the official day. The University Grants Commission of India (UGC) has issued a letter to universities and affiliated colleges to organize run-up events for IYD since May 2nd.
In addition, the Ministry organized a National Seminar on Art & Science of Common Yoga Protocol. It was held on May 2nd at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi, where various aspects of the common protocol of yoga were discussed.
Here’s a video that outlines last year’s protocol:
As it’s become a tradition, many places all across the globe will join. Here are a few events you could attend:
Starting at 3 pm on the 21st, the Anand Yoga Foundation will collaborate with the 11th international Bali Meditators’ Festival to put together a 6-hour event in Ubud.
There’ll be a free yoga session at Chulalongkorn University. On June 16th at 5:30 am in the lawn in front of the Royal Statues of King Chulalongkorn and King Vajiravudh.
New York, USA
Solstice in Times Square is perhaps the most famous celebration in the world. It starts at 7:30 am; if you can’t register, walk-ups are accepted but you need to arrive well in advance.
The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in San Francisco is hosting a full-day event to celebrate yoga. It starts at 6 am. There’ll also be a big event at the Veterans Sports Complex in Carson, starting at 6:30 pm.
The Consulate General of India has organized a public yoga session at Midtown Park on June 21st at 6:00 pm.
There’ll be a sunset yoga class in Jacksonville at 7 pm by the river.
Washington, DC, USA
The Embassy of India is organizing a public yoga session at the Washington Monument. The event will be held on June 16th at 8:30 am.
On June 21st, there’ll be a giveaway at Newbury Street at 6:00 pm. Afterward, you can head over to the Public Garden for a public yoga session.
The Consulate General of India will have its official celebration on June 15th. Starting at 9:30 there’ll be a yoga session at the Naperville Yard Indoor Sports Complex.
One of the most iconic celebrations of IDY, the annual Yoga Day Festival, occurs in many places around Australia. Brisbane, Gold Coast, Darwin, Adelaide, Sydney and Melbourne will all be holding events for the annual Yoga Day Festival. There are many things to do throughout the month of June, from yoga sessions to workshops.
There’ll be a big yoga event as the sun sets on the Parliament and the Thames river. The event starts at 4 pm and it consists of 4 hours of yoga sessions, workshops and lectures by yoga gurus.
An open day will be held from 10:00 to 16:00 at the Trinity Methodist Hall in Stockwell.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands
There’ll be an open yoga session in Dam Square, on June 16th from 12:00 to 7:00 pm.
Run for Yoga will take place in Volkspark Jungfernheide on June 23rd, starting at 11:00 am, with a race starting in Strandbad Jungfernheide. After it, there’ll be an open yoga session.
The Yoga Festival Madeira will take place from June 20th to June 23rd. This comprehensive event will have yoga classes, workshops, surfing, hiking, concerts, paragliding and activities for kids.
Starting on June 21st until the evening of June 22nd, there’ll be dozens of yoga classes all over the city.
The Indian Embassy and Art of Living, will celebrate the 5th IDY on June 18th, at the Stockholm Waterfront Congress Center. It’s open and free to everyone.
Johannesburg, South Africa
Over 5,000 people will gather in Johannesburg on June 22nd. Starting at 8:30 pm, there’ll be several events at the UJ Soweto Campus Stadium.
Cape Town, South Africa
In Cape Town, at the 14 Hope Street Gardens, there’ll be an event to celebrate yoga and raise funds for the EarthChild Project.
Do your own celebration
Can’t find an event to celebrate nearby? Travel to the destination you want and go on a yoga retreat for International Yoga Day. You’ll get to practice intensively, make new yogi friends and give yourself some time to reflect on all the good things that yoga brings to this world.
Or maybe you can find your own original way to celebrate yoga on its day. Organize a yoga session in a public park, plan your mini yoga retreat in a secluded area around your city or at least go to a yoga studio to learn a new style.
Another idea, in honor of this year’s IDY theme, you could get more creative and help the environment hand in hand with yoga. Gather with a group of friends and find a good place to plant trees; afterward, you could do some sun salutations and tree poses as a symbol to help them grow tall and strong.
Whatever you do, just remember that the intention of International Yoga Day is to be united with all living beings around us.