Here it is…it happened. The very first International Yoga Day. While the world participated in the official day of global yoga celebrations (or in some cases organized protests) we have to wonder, dear readers, if/what/how did you celebrate?
International Yoga Day was June 21, which was also the Summer Solstice so you might have already had plans to celebrate with a ritual of sun salutations or an annual pilgrimage to Times Square. In the U.S., the event also shared the date with Father’s Day this year so there was something, or someone, else to celebrate, too.
Here’s how the world went about making their mark on World Yoga Day. Just a little million people practicing yoga around the world recap.
There were organized events in just about every major city across the globe and some in between. In Taipei, over 2,000 people practiced 108 sun salutations. In Dubai, a man held his headstand for 61 minutes, likely adding to the Yoga Day Guinness World Records.
Hundreds gathered at the Eiffel Tower in Paris for practice on color-coordinated yellow mats.
Korean yogis came together for a public event in Seoul.
In NYC, an estimated 13,000 yogis practiced throughout the day in Times Square. The all-day event, indubitably sponsored by Athleta, drew yogis of all ages, shapes, sizes, and experience. A live webcast served the yogis at home with a dose of “mind over madness” and a glimpse into the solstice practice, which was accentuated by a few interesting soundtrack choices — did anyone else catch the odd “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” by Jamie XX during the morning session? Google the lyrics. It wasn’t the G-rated version, we can confirm that much.
— Colleen Saidman (@colleensaidman) June 22, 2015
Rajashree Choudhury was on hand for the Bikram Yoga portion despite being connected with her husband’s rape cases.
Midway through the day, just after being a part of a special ceremony and practice at the United Nations, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, U.S. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, and the Art of Living’s Sri Sri Ravi Shankar joined Times Square Alliance President Tim Tompkins to share a few words.
In the face of “ignorance and hatred,” we can “reflect and call for the spiritual wisdom and spiritual love that is found in yoga,” Gabbard said.
Earlier, the crew had appeared at the United Nations HQ where even Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined in the yoga session.
And of course, in India, a massive potential World Record-making yoga demonstration involving a purported 35,000 people from school children to the members of the government joined in the practice as part of a campaign costing somewhere from $5 million to more than $15 million, according to local news reports.
There was so much yoga in India, that it literally took flight. SpiceJet, a regional budget airline, held 15 minute in-flight yoga sessions for about 25 flights led by the cabin crew who also handed out pamphlets and CDs with more information on the benefits of yoga.
That’s just a sample of yoga, yoga everywhere day, which shaped up to be an interesting one at that.
It’s all pretty spectacular looking, but that may just be what it seems on the surface, or what some of us might want it to be. But there are political and cultural woes surrounding Prime Minister Modi’s big yoga push. This wouldn’t truly be a balanced roundup without sharing articles that highlight the unrest that this day of awareness and peace was/is supposed to instill.
For some different perspectives, here are a few worth a read:
India’s Yoga Day Finally Arrives, Amid Cheers and Skepticism - New York Times
Reporters pounced, and a camera lens shattered on the ground. Muscular men wearing International Yoga Day T-shirts held back the crowd. Some volunteers formed a chain around onlookers.
To this, Mr. Modi appeared impervious, lost deep in his practice. After bending and twisting through most of a 35-minute session in unison with an army of more than 35,000 participants, many in identical white T-shirts, he delved into the crowd of children, who touched his feet reverently. When he beckoned, and not a moment before, they rushed to him, touching the scarf he had used to wipe his brow.
“Yoga is part of ancient India’s cultural heritage,” says Manmohan Vaidya, a spokesperson of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the hardline ideological godfather of the BJP and the largest Hindu nationalist group in India. “By celebrating yoga on a mass scale we are validating our glorious past.”
Others say yoga is India’s biggest contribution to society after, perhaps, zero and is a symbol of its cultural richness.
There are concerns that India has lost control of “brand yoga” to the West – yoga is a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide – although Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has said India would “never like an Intellectual Property Rights stamp on yoga”.
Is yoga essentially a religious activity? This BBC magazine piece has some answers. But closer to home, the Yoga Day is being seen by many as (Hindu) India “reclaiming” yoga.
High-profile attempts to define yoga in terms of some national or religious identity are becoming increasingly common despite the lived and historical reality that yoga has never been a static and unified system. Rather, it has varied in its premodern and modern forms, featuring different practices, ideas, and aims, which appeared both within and beyond Hindu traditions and the borders of India, themselves constructed long after the historical emergence of yoga and the majority of its history.
If you’re looking for more photos, Time.com has a few more shots of the Yoga Day events around the world.
We’re sure more articles and more commentary will be shared as the world, and India, continue to unpack the implications of this major event and global yoga campaign. Feel free to share any you find interesting by posting the links in the comments below.
Until next year, yogsters…
Did you celebrate International Yoga Day? How do you feel about it?