International Yoga Day – History and Theme 2019

International Yoga day
Image source - Pilgrimage Yoga Online

International Yoga Day – History and Theme 2019

On 27th September, 2014, during a UN General Assembly meeting, Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi spoke about the invaluable gift of yoga that ancient Indian tradition has given to the world. In a very impactful and convincing speech, the Prime Minister laid emphasis on the fact that yoga. He said how it would help in bringing harmony between man and nature. The initiative was appreciated and the proposal to designate 21st June as International Yoga Day was decided by 193 members of the UN General Assembly on 11th December, 2014. The yoga day proposal was supported by more than 170 countries.


The First International Yoga day

The first international Yoga day was celebrated on 21st June for the first time. Approximately 35,000 people from all over of the world participated in the mass yoga session held at Rajpath, New Delhi. The session lasted approximately 35 minutes and 21 yoga mudras were practised during the session.


History of Yoga – What is Yoga?

The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ meaning to unite; the union of the individual self with the supreme self. Today, many people are taking up yoga techniques for physical exercise, and most don’t know the history of yoga. They believe there is nothing wrong with implementing this form of exercise into their daily regiment to promote a healthier body.

However, the practice of yoga is much more than a system of physical exercise for health. Yoga is an ancient path to spiritual growth, and originates out of India where Hinduism is practiced. The practice and goal of yoga dates back to the Upanishads, written between 1000-5000 BC.


Pre-Classical Yoga

The beginnings of Yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals to be used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures. The most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 B.C.E. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).


Classical Yoga

In the pre-classical stage, yoga was a mishmash of various ideas, beliefs and techniques that often conflicted and contradicted each other. The Classical period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written some time in the second century, this text describes the path of Raja Yoga, often called “classical yoga”. Patanjali organized the practice of yoga into an “eight limbed path” containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or enlightenment. Patanjali is often considered the father of yoga and his Yoga-Sûtras still strongly influence most styles of modern yoga.


Post-Classical Yoga

A few centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters created a system of practices designed to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. They developed Tantra Yoga, with radical techniques to cleanse the body and mind to break the knots that bind us to our physical existence. This exploration of these physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.


Modern Period

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, yoga masters began to travel to the West, attracting attention and followers. This began at the 1893 Parliament of Religions in Chicago, when Swami Vivekananda wowed the attendees with his lectures on yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. In the 1920s and 30s, Hatha Yoga was strongly promoted in India with the work of T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda and other yogis practicing Hatha Yoga. The first Hatha Yoga school in Mysore was opened in 1924 by Krishnamacharya  and in 1936 Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the holy Ganges River. Krishnamacharya produced three students that would continue his legacy and increase the popularity of Hatha Yoga: B.K.S. Iyengar, T.K.V. Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. Sivananda was a prolific author, writing over 200 books on yoga, and established nine ashrams and numerous yoga centers located around the world.

Importation of Yoga to the West

The importation of yoga to the West still continued at a trickle until Indra Devi opened her yoga studio in Hollywood in 1947. Since then, many more western and Indian teachers have become pioneers, popularizing hatha yoga and gaining millions of followers. Hatha Yoga now has many different schools or styles, all emphasizing the many different aspects of the practice.


What are the Objectives of International Yoga Day?

On this International Yoga day 2019, let us shine some light upon the main objectives of International Yoga Day.

  • To introduce people to the art of meditation, one of the many practices for channelizing energies of our body and mind.
  • Help people of the world understand and know the many benefits of yoga in healing the mind, body and soul.
  • To get over or fight various medical issues by practicing regular yoga.
  • Help people understand and adopt yoga for better physical and mental health and well-being.
  • To Help decrease mild to severe medical issues faced by the people of all age groups.
  • Help people make a connection or be in sync with nature and their natural surroundings, which we tend to forgo while tending to our never-ending work or personal demands.
  • To maintain and strengthen a global-connect with people from different parts of the world.
  • To help people get relief from everyday stress.
  • Help various communities to come forward and spend a day, which is specifically dedicated to embracing the importance of health and well-being.
  • To help people know the benefits of yoga in maintaining higher levels of physical, mental and spiritual health.
  • Help people adopt a healthy lifestyle and habits and let go of unhealthy practices.
  • To help gain people’s attention towards the holistic benefits of practicing the art of yoga.
  • Help spread the message of love, peace, and oneness amongst the people of the world.


How Is Yoga Day Celebrated?

The International Yoga Day is being celebrated with complete enthusiasm in India and in many other parts of the world. There are numerous yoga camps, seminars, training programs, workshops, etc. organized by the government and NGOs at the mass levels. It is also common practice for people to gather in large groups in a park or ground and practice mudras or asanas of yoga. Lectures and talks are organized to spread the significance and importance of yoga in our everyday lives. Many yoga gurus and trainers also hold various kinds of training programs or sessions across the country.


How can you celebrate International Yoga Day?

And lastly, if there’s an event celebrating International Yoga Day, for the love of yoga – go be part of it!

Grab a friend, family member, yoga studio member, or go by yourself and participate! As I’ve said numerous times now, the stronger our breath and movement is, the more we can help change this world through our yoga practice (which is insane, but so true).

If you live in India, the mecca of all yoga events takes place. And if you live in NYC, Time Square shuts down and hosts yoga classes all damn day.

And if there’s no event taking place in your local community, take the initiative to start one!


Yoga and Social Media

Yoga is big on Instagram, and there will definitely be an #internationalyogaday hashtag. Snap a pic of yourself in a posture you’re currently working on and tag it.

Instagramming isn’t just a good way to engage with other yogis from around the world, it’s actually a good way to track your progress over time. Next year take a picture of yourself in the same posture and compare. You can see how your practice has progressed. It’s a cool way to honor your hard work. And to see precisely how much you can do if you think about something.


International Yoga day 2019 Theme

The main event will be held in Ranchi and is expected to draw about 50,000 participants. The theme of the day is going to be “Yoga for Heart”. It is going to be a great day of harmonizing development to our body.


Yoga should undoubtedly become a part of our life as it not only helps us in keeping good physical health but also helps sustain it. However, before indulging or doing or performing any yoga asana for the first time, make sure you seek the help of a professional in understanding the correct breathing techniques and practices. Once you master the poses, you can safely perform the asanas at home.

However, if you are suffering from any kind of medical disorder or problem, we suggest that you consult your physician before trying any new kind of physical workout or exercise.


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