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Explained: Why June 21 is observed as International Yoga Day

The UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga by passing a resolution on December 11, 2014.

The international community observes June 21 as International Yoga Day, recognising the many benefits of the ancient Indian practice of yoga. The year 2021 marks the 7th annual International Yoga Day.

The United Nations theme for this year is “Yoga for well-being”, which takes into account how the practice can promote the holistic health of every individual.

Although yoga has long been recognised as India’s gift to the global culture of wellness, the official UN recognition came after a push by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014.

The UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga by passing a resolution on December 11, 2014 during the 69th session of the General Assembly. At the session, PM Modi had said, “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 is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

The first Yoga Day celebrations were held in 2015 at Raj Path in New Delhi and Modi, along with other dignitaries, had created two Guinness World Records. The first record was set for housing 35,985 people and being the world’s largest yoga session. The second one was for having the most number (84) of nationalities participating in it.

The word ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolising the union of a person’s body and consciousness.

“Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness,” the United Nations website says.

According to its famous practitioner BKS Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”

In its ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ from 2019, the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) lists Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prāṇāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna, Samādhi, Bandhās and Mudrās, Ṣaṭkarmas,Yuktāhāra, Mantra-japa,Yukta-karma as popular yoga ‘sadhanas’.

The AYUSH protocol describes the folding hands logo of Yoga Day as reflecting “the union of individual consciousness with that of universal consciousness, a perfect harmony between mind and body, man and nature, the holistic approach to health and well being. The brown leaves in the logo symbolize the earth element, the green leaves of nature, blue the fire element while the sun symbolises the source of energy and inspiration.”

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