Updated: June 17, 2020
International Day of Yoga, or commonly and unofficially referred to as Yoga Day, is celebrated annually on 21st of June since its inception in 2015. An international day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice originated in India.
Since 21 June, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world, the date was suggested by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN address.
The word Yoga is a Sanskrit word and it comes from the root word Yuja which basically means to bind to align to hold. The Lord Shiva is considered the father of ancient yoga while Patanjali is the father of modern yoga.
As 21 June is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere (shortest in the southern hemisphere), it has special significance in many parts of the world. The summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana from the perspective of yoga. The second full moon after summer solstice is known as Guru Poornima. Shiva, the first yogi (Adi Yogi), is said to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to the rest of mankind on this day, and became the first guru (Adi Guru). Dakshinayana is also considered a time when there is natural support for those pursuing spiritual practices.
The idea of International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi during his speech at the UNGA, on 27 September 2014. He stated:
"Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day."
The first International Day of Yoga was observed around the world on 21 June 2015. The Ministry of AYUSH made the necessary arrangements in India. Millions of people including Narendra Modi and dignitaries from 84 nations, performed 21 asanas (yoga postures) for 35 minutes at Rajpath in New Delhi.
NCC cadets entered the Limca Book of Records for the "largest yoga performance simultaneously by a single uniformed youth organisation" by performing at multiple venues.
The ministry organized an event titled "The National Event of Mass Yoga Demonstration" at Chandigarh in 2016. A special event titled "Conversation with Yoga Masters - Yoga for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals" was the centerpiece.
The Indian prime minister Narendra Modi participated in the event and practiced yoga along with 51,000 participants in Lucknow, in 2017.
The event in Dehradun was held at the Forest Research Institute in 2018. PM Modi led an estimated 50,000 volunteers to mark the fourth anniversary of International Yoga Day. The theme for 2018 was "Yoga for Peace". Over 100,000 people gathered at a yoga session in Kota, Rajasthan and performed yoga together, and entered a Guinness World Record.