The theme of International Yoga Day 2018: Yoga for peace
ESRA E. KARAOSMANOĞLU
Initiated with a proposition by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, June 21 was proclaimed International Yoga Day by the United Nations on Dec. 11, 2014. The aim of worldwide recognition was to primarily raise awareness on the benefits of yoga.
Today, the U.N. resolution is endorsed by 179 countries. Four years ago, in his address to the General Assembly, Prime Minister Modi said: “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action ... a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
The choice of June 21 was by no means a coincidence. The longest day of the year symbolizes light, clarity, strength, and forces of wisdom for many philosophic streams.
No doubt, yoga is practiced today in a multitude of forms and continues to gain popularity. This trend is also supported by increasing medical research on the health benefits of the discipline, as well as its complementary nature to mainstream medical treatments.
While the event is celebrated all over the world on June 21 specifically, week-long celebrations will mostly be ongoing. On that specific day or week, the chance of seeing people practicing yoga at any park will not be remote. Often, in most capitals and big cities, hundreds of yoga enthusiasts will gather to flex their bodies in central city squares, green areas and in front of symbolic monuments.
The theme for the 2018 celebration, organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. is “Yoga for Peace.” The word yoga itself is a reflection of peace, unity, as its Sanskrit meaning refers to “joining or uniting,” symbolizing the union of body and consciousness, but also peace between the individual and the outer world. In line with the 2018 theme, this year yoga is explored to serve as a connecting tool between countries and people of different horizons. The challenging idea is to install yoga as a peace practice, in heritage of Mahatma Gandhi’s admonition “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
For the fourth time since the adoption of the International Yoga Day, the Yoga Foundation (Yoga Vakfı) is hosting celebrations in Istanbul. The Consulate General of India in Istanbul is the official sponsor of this year’s activities.
The increasing attendance observed year after year for International Yoga Day’s celebrations reflects the popularity of yoga in Turkey. Indeed, while 10 years ago yoga was just a new trendy activity, nowadays most of the Turkish metropolitan or medium size cities host several yoga studios and centers. Regular visits of foreign yoga teachers in Turkey have also gained the interest of Turkish yoga students in a blooming sector and brought a practice leveled up to most of the international practice.