It’s June, which means International Yoga Day is just around the corner! For many, this has become a wonderful annual tradition to honor yoga and the connection between people and nature.
International Day of Yoga is celebrated on June 21st, this is also the Summer Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. And whether or not you have participated in International Day of Yoga or are just learning about it—you probably have a few questions about this special day.
How did it start?
In September 2014, at the United Nations General Assembly, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi announced that he wanted to have a day of yoga to honor the connection between man and nature, health and wellbeing, and oneness with self.
As he stated, “For us in India, respect for nature is an integral part of spiritualism. We treat nature's bounties as sacred. Yoga is an invaluable gift of India's ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change and in bettering our wellbeing. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day."
He also proposed celebrating this day on June 21st, which has significance in many parts of the world and is also known as the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day in the Southern Hemisphere. The first International Yoga Day was on June 21, 2015 and it has been a growing event since then.
How is it celebrated?
There are many ways to celebrate International Yoga Day, ranging from doing something at home in your own space, joining in a small group setting, or taking part in larger event such as a yoga festival.
Practice at home.
For the past few years, I personally haven’t been able to attend a group event, however, in honor of the Summer Solstice it fits perfectly to do 108 Sun Salutations, so I have done these in the comfort of my home. Sometimes I have done the Sun Salutations to my own musical playlist and other times I have found a video on Youtube.
Find a group celebration.
Invite a friend or family member to a yoga class—whether you’re attending your weekly yoga class on June 21st or trying a new yoga class that day, it’s the perfect opportunity to invite a friend or family member to join you.
Many yoga studios host events on this day, ranging from yoga in the park, 108 Sun Salutations, or even goat yoga. Check with your local studio to see what they have planned.
There are many ways to donate your time or money on June 21st if you prefer to go the charitable route or are inspired to add some charity to a solitary or group celebration.
- Donate time and/or money to a charity that’s close to your heart or one of these charities that are in the yoga community—Africa Yoga Project, Veterans Yoga Project, Giving Back Yoga Foundation, Off the Mat, Into the World
- If you are a yoga instructor, you can lead a free yoga class in a public setting or start a local donation based class
Yoga Poses to Honor International Day of Yoga
By flowing from one pose to the next and connecting breath and body, Sun Salutations work through the stuck energy within your body and offer release.
Sanskrit: Suyra Namaskar
- Starting in Mountain pose, inhale as you reach your hands to the sky
- Exhale, folding forward
- Inhale, bringing hands to your knees and having a flat back in half lift
- Exhale, either stepping back into Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) or flowing to Chaturangas (high plank to low plank) and rising to Warrior I
- Open to Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II)
- Draw your right elbow to your knee, extending your left hand to the sky in Side Angle (Utthita Parsvakonasana)
- Flow to Reverse Warrior (Viparita Virabhadrasana), sinking into a lunge as you reach your right hand to the sky and allow your left hand to graze the back of your left leg
- Step forward to Mountain pose or flow through a Chataranga Dandasana and repeat on the other side of your body
- Repeat for three full sets
- Starting from a standing position, with hands at heart center, set your gaze on a non-moving focal point
- Bring your right foot to your left ankle or upper thigh
- Extend your arms to the sky and open out
- Hold for three to five breaths on each side
- Start with your feet firmly planted on your mat and hands at heart center
- Draw your weight into your right foot
- Bring your right hand to your hip
- Bend your left leg and reach for your foot with your left hand
- Slowly hinge forward as you extend your right arm overhead and left leg behind you
- Drawing strength from your core and setting your gaze, hold for 10-30 seconds
- Switch sides
- Starting on hands and knees, sit back on your heels
- Reach your arms straight out in front of you for a deeper back stretch or keep them at your side for a more restorative experience
- Hold for three to five breaths
International Day of Yoga is an inspiring celebration to add to your yoga practice and to honor the change of seasons. Whether you observe this day on your own or with a group, I hope you are able to participate in a way that embraces all that yoga means to you as well as all you aspire to bring to your yoga practice in the next year.