Everything You Need To Know About International Yoga Day

The June 21 Global Event Is Not Just About Religion or Hinduism

On June 21, hundreds of thousands of people will be twisting their bodies across the globe. No, it is not a world game of Twister, but the 4th annual International Day of Yoga.

The festival began in 2015 when India presented to the United Nations General Assembly a bill to create an official international holiday to celebrate yoga. It was voted in unanimously.

But do not expect to get the day off work. The event is designed to promote the physical, spiritual, and mental aspects of yoga. Yoga was initially used as a form of religious worship in India. It gained a wider audience at the beginning of the 19th century mainly due to Swami Vivekananda.

For some practitioners, it is purely a physical form of exercise. For others, there is an incorporation of mindfulness and meditation. One yoga expert described yoga as “a tool of self-obliteration rather than self-actualization.” The third group uses it as a form of spiritual ritual. This could be specifically toward Hinduism or a combination of New Age beliefs that can incorporate other metaphysical concepts.

The spiritual aspect of yoga has caused some controversy. Some Christian groups have tried to ban yoga for members of their faith. They claim that it is a form of covert indoctrination. In Russia, a teacher was arrested for illegal missionary activity after talking about yoga. Even if this is not the mainstream view, the practice of yoga has also caused disputes in the country of its origin, India. Human rights advocates have claimed that Prime Minister Modhi uses the festival as an opportunity to promote his BJP political party’s brand of fervent nationalism blended with Hinduism. Within the yoga community, the relationship between the teacher (guru) and the student is being modified because of highly publicized examples of abuse towards women.

The festival is designed to both celebrate yoga and introduce it to new populations. So it does not matter if you are a seasoned practitioner or don’t know your Downward Dog from your King Pigeon, find how your city is celebrating the festival. Namaste!

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