22 June 2017

Do Yoga, Be Yoga and Enjoy Your Life!

It has been a long time since the North Lawn garden of the United Nations in New York has been used, due to the eight-year renovation of the Secretariat building and grounds, but something of its intended natural life finally returned to the green space yesterday, 20 June 2017: the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations had invited yogis from all walks of life to a yoga session in celebration of the third International Day of Yoga.

Not wanting to miss this unique opportunity, we—a group of interns in the Department of Public Information—headed to the North Lawn after work. We met a diverse mix of people—some wearing black suits, others in yoga clothes—in the hallways of the UN as we went to join more than 2,000 yogis eager to take part in the yoga practice with renowned yoga masters.            

On our way to the North Lawn, we could already feel the calming powers of yoga as the sound of meditative music filled the warm summer air. Outfitted with yoga mats, t-shirts and a goodie bag, we secured our spots in the shade. Even though the event was not scheduled to start until 6:00 p.m., the area was filled with people a half-hour ahead of time. While some experienced yogis had already started their practice, first-time yogis like us used the time before the official event began to enjoy the scenery. Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, Permanent Representative of India, welcomed all yogis and stressed that “India believes that yoga belongs to everyone and should be shared with the world in an open and transparent way”. We only had to turn our heads to realize how true this statement was. Surrounded by people from all nations and age groups, we recognized that this event truly was a celebration for everyone.

Before making our first attempts at getting into various yoga poses, we listened to a speech by the President of the General Assembly, Peter Thomson, and were amazed by a demonstration of yoga on Mallakhambh (a wooden pole), after which a musical performance brought us further into the right mind-set for our yoga practice.

When yoga master Swami Sivadasananda took the stage, it was finally our time to join the practice. The sun salutation is probably one of the most famous yoga sequences that everyone has heard about, but actually getting into it and other poses is a very different story, as we found: trying to follow the instructions while controlling our breath was more challenging than we had ever imagined! Even though we probably did not manage to follow the complete routine, we were amazed by the entire event and the peacefulness surrounding the North Lawn, while routine urban madness was prevailing on the streets just a few steps away.

The event allowed us to experience so many facets of yoga, ranging from following instructions by various yoga masters to meditation and different forms of prayer. While we know that yoga is much more than could be shown and experienced in such a short time, we are grateful that we were given the opportunity of getting a first glimpse into the world of yoga.



DPI interns and first-time yogis enjoyed the event in honour of the International Day of Yoga. (UN Photo: Edwin Tintin)