Applied @International Day of Yoga Celebrations at the United Nations

by Applied Informatics

Just got back from the First International Day of Yoga (IDY) celebrations organized by the Indian Mission to the United Nations at the UN. The 2 hour long event was among the hundreds of events (including the world recording breaking session featuring 35,000 people doing yoga at once, led by the Indian Prime Minister in Delhi) that were planned by the Indian government all over the world, to celebrate the First IDY.

Triangle Pose at the International Yoga Day, UN.


The event had some A-list speakers. The Indian Minister for External Affairs, Ms Sushma Swaraj flew in by an overnight flight to address the gathering. She endorsed the view that Yoga can help us connect with ourselves, the society and nature in a more meaningful and emphasized that it should be seen “not as a religion but as a science”.

international yoga day dignitaries, United Nations
The A-list speakers at the First International Day of Yoga and the United Nations. In the center are the Sushma Swaraj, Minister of External Affairs, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Ban Ki Moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The UN secretary general, Mr. Ban Ki Moon was there (and later joined in the yoga session with his wife). He has played a key role in leading the UN to adopt the resolution to celebrate June 21 as the International Day of Yoga, a proposal credited to the current Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Modi. He further stressed that “Yoga does not discriminate” (rightly so, despite concerns raised by some that this is to push a religious agenda – recommend this viewpoint by Manil Suri in the NYTimes).

UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki Moon tryng the Tree Pose; an image that supposedly went viral. Mr. Moon was in the crowds doing the tree pose again today!

Ms Tulsi Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawai, used the occasion to highlight how yoga can help eliminate ignorance and hatred (referencing the Charleston shooting). BKS Iyengar, one of the foremost gurus of the 20th century, and who lived till 95 but sadly passed away last year, was well remembered – he was quoted often and his quotes fluttered in large bill boards under the at-times scorching sun and at-times cloudy skies.

The highlight of the event was the yoga session led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of living Foundation. I had once attended an event led by him years ago but it was really awesome to hear his voice again, specifically, his signature “breathhhhhhh in, breathhhhh out”.  If you ever get a chance to hear him in person leading yoga/meditation, don’t miss out. The voice will linger in you for long.

The Yoga Session was led by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Founder of the Art of Living Foundation
In Shava Asana, with Sri guiding the “breath in , breath out”

Another interesting speaker invited by the Indian mission was the Founder of the Times Square Yoga Alliance. Tim started the June 21st solstice yoga at Times Square in 2003 and only 3 people showed up for that one, including him. I remember attending one year (I think it was 2009) and was pleasantly surprised by the turn out and also that amidst all the rush and chaos of humans and traffic that is Times square, you could still find peace in the solstice yoga. Today close to 30,000 people will participate in the Times Square Solstice Yoga  – see live webscast !

It is great to see such organized effort at the international scale. It will only increase awareness and access to this ancient practice that dates back 5000 years. I have been practicing at the Iyengar Institute of Greater NY for 10 yrs now and every year you see more people gravitate towards the practice. Hope to see some of you there soon!

Indeed a great day towards greater global health and peace. And last but not the least, big shout out to my lead who thanks to a last minute arrangement, was able to get me entry to this invitation only event !


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