What International Day of Yoga, Summer Solstice, and Sun Salutations Have in Common – Yoga Journal

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International Day of Yoga (IDY), as the name implies, acknowledges the worldwide significance of yoga. The designation recognizes the practice not only as a part of the intangible cultural heritage of South Asia, but also as a global phenomenon. Celebrated annually on June 21, the day coincides with the summer solstice.

How did International Day of Yoga become a thing?

We have Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank for IDY. In 2014, he proposed that the United Nations officially recognize the practice. “Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition,” he said during his address. “Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and…nature.” Based on yoga’s popularity, its ancient tradition, and its scientifically shown effects on health, the U.N. General Assembly voted to make June 21 International Day of Yoga.

What’s the Summer Solstice?

In the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice is the longest day of the year, which coincides with the Sun being at its highest point in the sky, offering us the most hours of daylight. It marks the official beginning of summer. The exact moment of the solstice occurs on Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at 10:58 am ET, according to Almanac.com. It’s considered a significant time astrologically as it delineates the beginning of another season, both in nature and astrology, as we transition into summer and Cancer season.

What’s the Connection Between Summer Solstice and Yoga?

Two words: Surya Namaskar. Also known as Sun Salutations, this traditional sequence was created out of reverence for the Sun and became an integral part of the practice of yoga. Indian sages are believed to have practiced Sun Salutations to awaken the body, align the mind, and tone and activate the Manipura, or solar plexus chakra, which is associated with intuition, self esteem, motivation, discipline, and a sense of purpose.

Since IDY became a thing, yoga practitioners all over the world have taken the longest day of the year as an opportunity to get outside, practice yoga, and appreciate the Sun.

Why Do Some People Avoid Celebrating International Day of Yoga?

You have Modi to thank for that, too. There’s concern that his conservative government is using IDY to promote Hindu Nationalism–the idea that India is a Hindu nation. While he has ensured that India receives credit as the birthplace of yoga, his Hindu-first narrative is seen as a way to exclude other South Asian groups, particularly Muslims.

How You Can Participate in International Day of Yoga Classes

Politics aside, many practitioners take the day as an opportunity to celebrate the community and benefits of yoga. Following are a handful of the hundreds of gatherings taking place all over the world in honor of the day. All times are local.

United Nations

The Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations will host a celebration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the North Lawn of the UN Headquarters in New York City.

June 21, 8 am. Free. Pre-registration is required.

New York

Following an International Day of Yoga celebration at Time Square, supported by the Consulate General of India, New York, the celebrations continue at Waterline Square with an evening of yoga classes, kids’ activities, musical performances, and a sound-healing meditation session.

June 21, 6-9 pm. Free.

Take part in Summer Solstice in the Park with YogaWorks instructors Ashley Lorenzo and Becky Nickerson.  The outdoor practice and urban escape takes places at Dunwoody Nature Center in the Austin Lane area.

June 21, 9 am  Free.

Visitors to The Meritage Resort and Spa can practice yoga and meditation as the Sun sets on nine acres of vineyards amid the hills of Napa Valley. After Sunset Yoga on the Vineyard Deck you’ll be able to enjoy a good bottle of wine after your yoga session.

Wednesday, June 21, 6 pm. $35.

Take an early-morning walk and yoga class in Philly’s famous Fairmount Park. Starting at the park’s Belmont Plateau, the solstice-themed guided hike will cover a half mile of varied terrain. Afterward, participants will gather for a yoga class led by teachers from Tula Yoga.

June 21, 7 am. Pay what you can: $15, $20, or $25.

Practice yoga overlooking the Great Basin at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Summer Solstice Yoga Celebration. The outdoor class is designed to be relaxing and inclusive for all levels.

Tuesday, June 20, noon. $25/$32 for nonmembers.

International Yoga Day and Summer Solstice event on the island of Bonaire is a free community practice at Seru Largu overlooking the capital city of Kralendijk. Yoga teachers Kelly Livingston and Miranda Roberts, both expats, offer a meditative walk followed by a sunset yoga practice on the Dutch Caribbean island.

Wednesday, June 21. 5:45 pm. Free.

Michael Hayes of Buddha Body Yoga makes the practice of yoga accessible to all bodies. Beginning on the summer solstice, Hayes is launching a 20-day series of online classes consisting of five minutes of Sun Salutations each day. The challenge is intended to familiarize students with the benefits of being in community for a regular yoga practice.
Wednesday, June 21, $35; Yoga Journal readers receive a $10 discount using the code FRIENDS@YOGAJOURNAL at checkout.

This content was originally published here.

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