Thousands of yoga enthusiasts across the world on Sunday took to mats and stretched, bent and twisted their bodies in multiple complex postures as they marked the inaugural International Day of Yoga, celebrating the ancient Indian spiritual practice.
More than a thousand people took part in several events across Australia to mark the day, with Prime Minister Tony Abott appreciating Yoga’s universal appeal.
“For thousands of years, yoga has provided its followers with a guide to bringing their mind, body and spirit into balance,” Mr. Abott said.
“Yoga’s universal and growing popularity demonstrates its appeal to people from all the walks of life and its great potential to foster better health among individuals and populations around the world,” he said.
Melbourne saw over 500 people gathered at the Springers Leisure Centre to kick off the day with ‘Surya Namaskar’ and bending and twisting their bodies in complex postures.
Several MPs including Victoria’s speaker Telmo Languiller, Inga Peulich, Anthony Byrne attended the ceremony by lighting the lamp in the presence of Indian consul-general in Melbourne Manika Jain.
Yoga events were also held at Sydney’s popular Bondi beach and in the Australian capital Canberra.
In the U.K., hundreds gathered across cities to celebrate the day with the main event on the bank of the river Thames in London. It was held at Bernie-Spain Garden, on the South Bank of Thames.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in his message: “The UK is pleased to support International Yoga Day. We were one of 177 countries to vote in favour of Prime Minister Modi’s proposal and we are pleased to see the enthusiasm with which it is being embraced, both in UK and around the world.”
In China, events were organised at the prestigious Peking University and Geely University. People from different walks of life took part in the exercise.
About a week ahead of the International Yoga Day, the India-China Yoga college was inaugurated at Yunnan Minzu University in Kunming, the first such college in the country.
U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed his excitement at the first International Day of Yoga during his meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New York, saying the day has garnered “unprecedented” enthusiasm around the world.
More than 4,000 people participated in a two-hour programme held at 50 centres across Singapore. The event was led by High Commissioner Vijay Thakur Singh and Singapore’s Minister in The Prime Minister’s Office, Grace Fu.
“We have an overwhelming response to the first International Yoga day in Singapore — people from diplomatic corps, business executives and Singaporeans from all walks of life participated,” Mr. Singh said.
In Thailand, an open field at a Bangkok university was turned into a “yoga studio” as thousands of Thais, Indians and other expatriates gathered to celebrate the day.
More than 7,400 people were on the grounds at Chulalongkorn University to participate in the event organised by the Indian Embassy.
Yoga experts from India gave a demonstration followed by common Yoga Protocol to all participants for 33 minutes.
Similar events were also held at Chiangmai, Phuket and Pattaya.
“The whole event was superb, the participation was extraordinary from schools and universities in Thailand,” India’s Ambassador to Thailand Harsh Vardan Shringla said.
Thailand’s minister of tourism and sports Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul was the chief guest at the event attended by ambassadors, representatives from the UN and Indian associations.
In Vietnam, hundreds took part in the celebrations at Hanoi’s Quan Ngua Sports Palace, and in Ho Chi Minh city and seven other provinces.
“The response was amazing, way beyond our expectations,” Preeti Saran, India’s ambassador to Vietnam said.
In Hanoi, at least 4,000 spectators watched 800 people perform yoga asanas. In Ho Chi Minh, there was a turnout of 3,000 people who watched 500 people do yoga.
The International Day for Yoga was also held across Japan.
India’s Ambassador to Japan Deepa Wadhwa said Tokyo itself had several events on the Yoga Day.
Wadhwa flagged off at the premises of a Japanese school where around 500 yoga enthusiasts were attending.
A similar event was held in Paris, where people dressed in white sat on mats under the Eiffel Tower and practiced yoga.
Other ASEAN nations such as Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, also joined the world in celebrating the ancient Indian spiritual practice.
June 21 was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the UN General Assembly in December, 2014.
177 nations, out of 193 member states of the UN joined as co-sponsors, creating a new record for the highest number of co-sponsoring countries ever for an UNGA Resolution of such nature.
International Yoga Day
As it happened
Mr. Modi said this was not just a daylong celebration but the beginning of an era of peace and harmony.
The Prime Minister also said yoga is a medium to check greed, violence, cost of health care and conflicts.
He rubbished claims that yoga represented a particular religion and said yoga represents brotherhood and peace.
Several hundred enthusiasts were denied access to venue as they lacked invitation cards.
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