June 21, 2023, marks the ninth annual International Yoga Day, a day meant to honor the ancient physical, mental, and spiritual practice that is widely popular worldwide, and has kicked off with different events set to be held across the globe.
The holiday itself was made in 2014 by the United Nations, per resolution 61/131, after it was proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a UN General Assembly meeting.
The date of June 21 for the holiday is no coincidence, with Modi specifically suggesting it due to it being the summer solstice and, therefore, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere – a day that holds great significance for cultures the world over.
But this day also holds significance for yoga itself. In Hindu tradition, the summer solstice marks the beginning of the period known as Dakshinayana, a time when, among other things, the Hindu god Shiva supposedly taught humanity yoga – an act that has earned him the title of Adi Yogi, or the first yogi.
The holiday remains most popular in India, with large celebrations taking place every year, though previous celebrations have also been held in countries such as the US, Ireland, Ukraine, China, and Greece.
In 2015, one International Yoga Day event in the Indian city of Rajpath actually broke two Guinness world records, one for the largest yoga class – it hosted 35,985 people – and for having the largest number of nationalities participating in it – from 84 different countries.
What is yoga?
Yoga is a term referring to a number of different practices that originate in Hinduism. With traditions going back thousands of years, yoga is traditionally practiced through meditation and holding a number of poses. Its practitioners are known as yogis.
Despite the religious significance of yoga's roots, it has gained popularity all over the world as a type of exercise and relaxation technique. However, this is only an adaptation of one part of the yoga tradition, with the full breadth of yoga being far more complex and spiritual.
How is the 2023 International Yoga Day being celebrated?
A number of events have been organized so far in honor of International Yoga Day, with most of them being in India.
Earlier Wednesday morning, yoga events were organized by elements of the Indian Coast Guard and army, Health Ministry, Civil Aviation Ministry, and railway staff and passengers, among others.
VIDEO | Indian Army personnel perform Yoga at Pangong Tso in Ladakh on the occasion of #InternationalYogaDay2023. pic.twitter.com/tbbPJdkrio— Press Trust of India (@PTI_News) June 21, 2023
Later in the day, a large yoga celebration will be held in the United Arab Emirates at Port Rashid in Dubai. This will see numerous yoga celebrations take place, including some held onboard a nearby Indian naval vessel, the INS Brahmaputra, according to Indian media reports.
An event will also be held in Israel at the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation in Tel Aviv, hosted by actress Liraz Charhi, which will feature a group yoga session and musical performances.
Later in the day, Modi is set to hold a large International Yoga Day event at the UN headquarters in New York. Speaking to Indian news outlet WION, UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi predicted that this celebration, which will host tens of thousands of participants coming from around 180 countries, will set new Guinness world records.
Troy O. Fritzhand contributed to this report.