Celebrated annually since 2015 on June 21st, the International Day of Yoga is an official observance day established by the United Nations in December of 2014. The purpose of this day is to promote Yoga as a way to not only increase physical activity but also as a way to balance physical health and mental health. Yoga improves fitness, helps to alleviate stress and teach us how to breathe correctly. This day is also a day to think about making healthier choices in your life.
History of Yoga
Yoga goes back thousands of years – exactly how far no one really knows. However, it is known that the word goes all the way back to the Vedas (the oldest examples of Hindu and Sanskrit literature), or about 1500 BCE. The word was originally used to refer to the yokes that were placed around the necks of animals. It’s believed that because many of the Vedic priests of the time self-disciplined themselves using strict poses that would eventually serve as precursors to the Yoga poses of today.
From that time through the 5th Century AD, Yoga began to gain popularity as not only a religious practice but also a form of meditation. It also became a central idea for many Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains. It was also during this time that the practice of Yogi was differentiated from the practice of Yoga. Yoga became a form of mind-discipline and meditation that was used to realize enlightenment. Yogi practice, on the other hand, began to become a form that was associated with more of a supernatural element. For example, Yogis were believed to be able to enter other bodies or travel through multi-dimensional space.
Up until the 19th century, Yoga was mainly a practice that encompassed both religious and spiritual ideals. Then in the middle of that century, Yoga came to the attention of West due to the increased fascination Westerners had with India during this time. The popularity of Yoga was also increased by a Hindu monk named Swami Vivekananda who toured the United States and Europe during the 1890s to spread the teachings of Hinduism among the elite and intellectuals of the time. While its popularity temporarily waned during much of the 20th century, it started to gain popularity again during the 1980s. Today, Yoga is more popular than it has ever been during the course of its 5,000-year history.
History of International Day of Yoga
The original draft resolution for the formation of this holiday was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly by Asoke Mukherji – India’s representative to the U.N. This draft received considerable support from the 177 Member States who sponsored it and this led to an adoption of the draft without a vote being needed. June 21st was chosen as the date because it is the longest day of the year and because the summer solstice the transition to Dakshinayana in the tradition of Yoga.
Celebrating International Day of Yoga
The best way to celebrate this observational holiday is by either practicing Yoga or learning more about it. All over the world, millions of people practice Yoga and take advantage of its many physical, mental and spiritual benefits.