New Delhi, June 21: The world is celebrating the third International Yoga Day today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath along with a gathering of over 51,000 people performed yoga in Lucknow early on Wednesday morning even as it rained at the venue. In Delhi, CM Arvind Kejriwal, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu with thousands performed Yoga in the national capital. Yoga events are being held in different parts of the country and the world. While Yoga is an age-old practice, the celebration of this practice as the International Day of Yoga has given it a boost.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a union of physical, mental as well as spiritual practices and disciplines that is said to have originated in India almost 5,000 years ago. While Yoga finds a mention in the Rigveda, it became more prominent as hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century. Yoga includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures. It is widely practised for health and relaxation.

Swami Satyanand Saraswati, who founded the International Yoga Fellowship in 1963 and Bihar School of Yoga in 1964, has said, “Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.”

The word Yoga means unity and has been derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means ‘to join’. Therefore, Yoga is a means of balancing and bringing harmony between the mind, body and soul.

Yoga includes asanas, mudras, kriyas, shaktakarmas and meditation. Yoga instructors advise Yoga must be practised for an hour each day for a healthy mind and body.

History of Yoga

Some scriptures say that Shiva was the founder of yoga while Parvati was his first disciple. According to these scriptures, Yoga originated more than 10,000 years ago. However, the first books to mention Yoga were the Vedas and the Tantras. Sage Patanjali’s treatise on raja yoga, the Yoga Sutras, says Yoga comprises of yama, niyama, asana, pranayam, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

In the 6th Century BC, Buddha’s influence brought meditation to the fore. It was then that yogi Matsyendranath taught that the body needed purification before meditation and hence, asanas were brought back.

Following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century, yoga took off as a popular system of physical exercise across the Western world.

The origin of Yoga Day

On September 27, 2014, in the year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested that June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, should be made the International Day of Yoga as it shares special significance in many parts of the world.

In the initial stage before June 21 was recognised as the International Yoga Day, informal consultations on the draft resolution entitled “International Day of Yoga” was held on October 14, 2014. (Read more about how Yoga Day came into being)

Two months later, on December 11, India’s Permanent Representative Asoke Mukherji introduced the draft resolution in UNGA. The draft received the support from 177 Member States who sponsored the text, which was adopted without a vote.
While this initiative found support in many global leaders, 177 nations co-sponsored the resolution, the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA resolution of such nature.

Today, billions of people are known to practise Yoga. From celebrities to political leaders and yoga gurus, there are people who vouch for Yoga for a healthy mind and body.