NEW YORK – The 4th International Day of Yoga was celebrated on June 16 at the iconic US Capitol West Lawn in Washington, DC. More than 2500 people from all walks of life participated in these celebrations with fervor and enthusiasm.
Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline, which evolved thousands of years ago for physical and spiritual wellbeing of the humankind. The word ‘yoga’ derives from Sanskrit and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. Yoga had gained worldwide popularity due to its immense health benefits.
The program started with playing of the audio messages from the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister of India Sushma Swaraj and Minister of State of Ayush, Shripad Naik.
Greeting yoga lovers all over the world, Modi explained yoga’s role in achieving ‘oneness among mind, body and intellect.’ He also emphasized that yoga is not just a set of exercises but also a passport to health assurance. External Affairs Minister underlined the role of yoga in relieving stress and called for adopting yoga in daily life.
India’s Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, addressed the gathering. Welcoming the participants, Sarna noted that yoga is widely embraced by the American people as a survey conducted in 2016 showed that there were 36.7 million Yoga practitioners in the U.S.
The participants also included officials and representatives from the State Department, Smithsonian Institutions, World Bank, academic institutions, think tanks, representatives of various embassies, local representatives of Indian news media and other key local organizations.
Many leaders from the United States issued proclamations and felicitation messages to support and commemorate the 4th International Day of Yoga and spread awareness about yoga. These included Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam, Senator Timothy M. Kaine and Congressmen Don Beyer, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Gerald E. Connolly.
A guided yoga session based on ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ created by Government of India was conducted with the help of yoga demonstrators. The yoga session concluded with Sanskrit shlokas and shantipath.
The Indian Embassy had organized curtain raiser events, in collaboration with yoga organizations and yoga studios, at the India International School, John Hopkins University, Heartfulness Institute in Richmond, Virginia, Sri Siva Vishnu Temple in Lanham MD, Chinmaya Mission and Durga Temple in Virginia, North Potomac Community Center. The embassy also acknowledges the cooperation given by ‘Friends of Yoga’ – a group of organizations which support and promote yoga in this region.
CELEBRATIONS IN NEW YORK
The fourth International Day of Yoga was celebrated with enthusiasm and fervor at the historic Governors Island on June 16, in New York City. The event organized by the Consulate General of India, New York saw enthusiastic participation from people of all ages.
It was on December 11, 2014, 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly approved the proposal by consensus, with a record of 177 countries thus establishing June 21, the day of the Summer Solstice, as International Day of Yoga (IDY). Since then the IDY has been celebrated annually by member countries of the UN with great enthusiasm.
The historic setting of the event in New York City in many ways exemplified the eternal values of yoga. Governors Island is a 72-acre island in New York Harbor, approximately 800 yards from the southern tip of Manhattan Island and separated from Brooklyn by Buttermilk Channel , approximately 400 yards. Perhaps signifying the global influence of yoga, the famous skyline of downtown Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty formed the backdrop of the event.
US Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney was the chief guest for the event. While complimenting the organizers, she spoke of the benefits that yoga has on contemporary lifestyles.
“Yoga, which is derived from Sanskrit, means to join or unite and symbolizes the union of body and mind” said Maloney. “It is a unique way to approach an individual’s health and well-being. Practicing yoga has been shown to decrease stress, fatigue, and alleviate chronic pains, as well as improving physical fitness. I know first-hand the benefits of practicing yoga. It is an essential part of my life, I practice it as often as I can, and it helps me to find balance and peace.”
The event featured performances from Hindu Temple, Indian Cultural Association, Mallakhambh Federation, Sam Katz (David Lynch Foundation), Art of Living Foundation, Isha Foundation, World Yoga Community and the Battery Dance Co.
The performances included demonstration of yoga mudra, salutations, common yoga protocol, yogasanas on the pole, transcendental meditation, desktop yoga, yogic music and musical performances from the Salon Di Virtuosi and a dance performance by the Battery Dance Company.