NEW DELHI – Millions of fitness enthusiasts across India stretched and twisted their bodies and performed breathing exercises on Friday morning on the fifth International Yoga Day to practice the physical, mental and spiritual exercise that originated in ancient India.
Mostly observed in India, Yoga Day is being marked across the world on the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi mooted the idea at the United Nations General Assembly in 2014.
Adopted unanimously at the UN, the first Yoga Day took place on June 21, 2015.
Like every year since then, Modi, one of the biggest proponents of the event and a regular yoga practitioner, led the celebrations streamed live from the northeast Indian city of Ranchi under the slogan “yoga for peace, harmony and progress.”
Ahead of the event, Modi, 68, on business networking website LinkedIn promoted yoga as “a handy passport to fitness and wellness.”
“Yoga and meditation are the panacea” for the problems of stress, societal divisions and climate change crisis, said Modi, wearing a white yoga-themed T-shirt and white trouser.
“It is a journey from ‘me’ to ‘we,’ bringing synergy between the mind, body and intellect. Yoga fosters oneness with our families, our society, and all the flora and fauna with whom we share our beautiful planet.”
At the Ranchi event, Modi said yoga was yet to be as popular as he wanted it to be.
“Modern yoga has not reached the poor and tribal people. We have to make yoga an integral part of their lives. Poor people suffer more from diseases and it makes them poorer. Yoga is a medium to come out from poverty. Yoga is of everyone, everyone is for yoga,” said Modi, who returned to power recently after a landslide election victory.
Elsewhere in the country, people gathered in open spaces to perform yogic asanas or poses and mark the day.
In the capital New Delhi, yoga instructors and enthusiasts gathered in front of the iconic India Gate to do yoga.
“Yoga brings the entire humanity together as it unites the people from Tokyo to San Francisco,” tweeted Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, who led the event in the Indian capital.
Shyam Soni, a yoga instructor for 20 years, who has been taking part in the commemorations since it first started, told EFE that more and more people were now practicing yoga as “yoga (is now) becoming the culture of India.”
Sabita Jain, another instructor who has been practicing yoga for the last 40 years, told EFE they had gathered “to enjoy and to encourage all people to join this international yoga day. People should do yoga for physical, mental and emotional benefits.”
While India is the birthplace of yoga and has adopted a leadership role in promoting the discipline internationally, more than 100 countries around the world, including Japan, the United States, Sweden, Brazil and Spain, too, have been promoting the practice.
Yoga, an ancient oriental discipline, has its origins in the Vedas, or scriptures dating back to 1500 BC, which form the base of the Hindu religion.
Indian armed forces personnel also marked the day in open fields, onboard naval ships and aircraft carriers. Dog Personnel from Animal Training School of paramilitary Indo-Tibetan Border Police, which mans Indian boundaries with China, were seen performing asanas with dogs in border state of Arunachal Pradesh.
The Indian Army’s dog unit shared on social networks pictures of downward-facing dogs and its personnel performing asanas.