Celebrated on 21 June annually since 2015, the International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014. The date of the day, 21 June was suggested as it is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world. From the perspective of yoga, the summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana, when the sun travels towards the south on the celestial sphere. The second full moon after summer solstice is known as Guru Poornima. Lord Shiva, the first yogi or 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.
Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India and is one of the six orthodox philosophical schools of Hinduism. In the western world, yoga often denotes denotes a modern form of hatha yoga with yoga as exercise, consisting largely of the postures or asanas. The practice of yoga has been thought to date back to pre-vedic Indian traditions, possibly in the Indus valley civilization around 3000 BC and the practice is mentioned in the Rigveda and referenced in the Upanishads, though it most likely developed as a systematic study around the 5th and 6th centuries BC. Hatha yoga texts began to emerge sometime between the 9th and 11th centuries with origins in tantra. Yoga in Indian traditions is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core. Derived from Sanskrit, the root word for Yoga is yug which means to attach, join, harness or yoke and refers to uniting with someone or joining. The ancient Indian sage Patanjali is thought to be the Father of Modern Yoga because he is the person who codified all the aspects of Yoga into a certain format and introduced Yoga Sutras.
The International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. It is important for individuals and populations to be able to make healthier choices and follow lifestyle patterns that foster good health. In this regard, it is important to reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide, and a key risk factor for non-communicable diseases, such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes. Other than other physical activies one can do, yoga is is an activity which is more than just a physical activity. In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. Iyengar, “Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.”
Yoga offers physical and mental health benefits for people of all ages and if one is going through an illness, recovering from surgery or living with a chronic condition, yoga can become an integral part of their treatment and potentially hasten healing. The benefits of yoga improves strength, balance and flexibility, helps with back pain relief, ease arthritis symptoms, benefits the heart health, relaxes the practitioner and help them sleep better, improve energy levels, better the mood and manage stress and promotes better self-care by providing a balance between the body, mind and soul.
So how can one celebrate this day? Create awareness about the benefits of yoga and take part in in a yoga class, preferably online or in a small group. You can also watch yoga videos on and correct your postures and share with family and friends the importance of yoga.