Millions celebrate World Yoga Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) participates in a mass yoga session along with other Indian yoga practitioners. Picture: AP
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (C) participates in a mass yoga session along with other Indian yoga practitioners. Picture: AP
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Millions of yoga enthusiasts across the world bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures yesterday to mark International Yoga Day.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi spread his mat among rows of people, including his Cabinet members and foreign diplomats, at New Delhi’s main thoroughfare, which was transformed into a sprawling exercise ground.

“Isn’t it awesome? Look at the people here, embracing it”

Fazel Shah, pilot

Thousands of people dressed in white sat on yellow mats under the Eiffel Tower, and similar events were held in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Beijing, Manila and other places. Mr Modi had lobbied the UN to declare June 21 as the first International Yoga Day.

“We are not only celebrating a day, but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace and harmony,” Mr Modi told participants. “This is a programme for the benefit of mankind, for a tension-free world and to spread the message of harmony.”

Schoolchildren, bureaucrats, housewives, soldiers and ordinary folk took part in the exercises, held in all Indian state capitals. In Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, yoga events were organised at nearly 30,000 places, state officials said.

In Taipei, more than 2,000 participants rolled out mats and performed 108 rounds of the “sun salutation” - the sequence of poses often practised at the beginning of a routine as the sun rises.

“They give themselves a piece of time to observe their mind and their heart, which I think in the modern society we need a lot,” said practitioner Angela Hsi.

Fazel Shah, an Indian pilot working for a Middle Eastern airline, rushed from the airport on his stopover in Taiwan to join the event.

“Isn’t it awesome? I mean, just look at the number of people who are here, embracing it,” he said.

He said yoga was probably born in India but belongs anywhere. “If you go up from where I am and look from the sky down, you don’t see borders, you don’t see religions, you don’t see nationalities, you just see one group of people. So, I just go down and meet up with them, that’s all.”

In Dubai, a 41 year-old Indian man attempted the world’s longest headstand. Ivan Stanley, who has lived in Dubai for 15 years, held the position for 61 minutes. He registered his attempt with Guinness World Records, which has yet to announce if he broke the record. He later said that he relied on his mental strength. “Up to 45 (minutes), it started getting physically a little challenging in my shoulder and neck but after that it was completely mental,” he said. “The last five minutes were really hard.”

Many believe that yoga, the ancient form of exercise, is the best way to calm the mind and the best form of exercise for the body.