What do International Yoga Day, summer solstice and sun salutation have in common?

June 20, 2023 0 Comments

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International Day of Yoga (IDY), as the name suggests, recognizes the global importance of yoga. The designation recognizes this practice not only as 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 the International Day of Yoga come about?

We have Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to thank for IDY. In 2014, he suggested that the UN officially recognize this practice. “Yoga is a priceless gift of our ancient tradition,” he said during his speech. “Yoga is not just exercise; it’s a way to discover a sense of unity with yourself, the world and… nature.” Given the popularity of yoga, its ancient traditions and scientifically proven effects on health, the UN General Assembly voted to make June 21 the International Day of Yoga.

What is the summer solstice?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice is the longest day of the year, which coincides with the Sun being at its highest point in the sky, giving us the most hours of daylight. It’s the official start of summer. According to Almanac.com, the exact moment of the solstice is Wednesday, June 21, 2023, at 10:58 a.m. ET. Astrologically, this is considered an important period as it outlines the beginning of another season, both in nature and in astrology, as we move into summer and the season of Cancer.

BY TIMMY: What does the summer solstice mean?

What is the connection between the summer solstice and yoga?

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

Ever since IDY became a reality, yoga practitioners around the world have embraced 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 Yoga Day?

You have Modi to thank for that too. There are concerns 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 is recognized as the birthplace of yoga, his Hindu narrative is seen as a way to exclude other South Asian groups, particularly Muslims.

How to participate in the International Day of Yoga

Politics aside, many practitioners see the day as an opportunity to celebrate the community and benefits of yoga. Below are several hundreds of gatherings taking place around the world in honor of this day. All times are local.

United Nations

India’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations will hold a celebration under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the North Lawn of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

June 21, 8 am. free. Pre-registration is mandatory.

New York

After the International Day of Yoga celebration in Time Square, supported by the Consulate General of India in New York, the celebrations continue in Waterline Square with an evening of yoga classes, children’s activities, musical performances and a sound meditation session.

June 21, 6-9 p.m. free.


Take part in Summer Solstice in the Park with YogaWorks instructors Ashley Lorenzo and Becky Nickerson. Outdoor activities and urban escapes take place at Dunwoody Nature Center on Austin Lane.

June 21, 9 a.m. Vilna.


Guests at the Meritage Resort & Spa can practice yoga and meditation as the sun sets over nine acres of vineyards amid the rolling hills of Napa Valley. After sunset yoga on the deck in the vineyard, you can enjoy a bottle of fine wine after your yoga session.

Wednesday, June 21, 6:00 p.m. 35 USD.


Take a morning walk and yoga class in Philly’s famous Fairmount Park. Starting at the park’s Belmont Plateau, the Solstice-themed guided hike covers half a mile of varied terrain. After that, participants will gather for a yoga class under the guidance of Tula Yoga teachers.

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


Practice yoga overlooking the Great Basin at the Summer Solstice Yoga Celebration at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Outdoor activities are designed to be relaxing and inclusive for all levels.

Tuesday, June 20, at noon. $25/$32 for non-members.


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

Wednesday, June 21, 5:45 p.m. free.


Michael Hayes of Buddha Body Yoga makes the practice of yoga accessible to all bodies. Starting on the summer solstice, Hayes is launching a 20-day series of online classes that consist of five minutes of sun salutations each day. The task aims to familiarize students with the advantages of being in the community for regular yoga classes.
Wednesday, June 21, $35; Yoga Journal readers get $10 off by using the code FRIENDS@YOGAJOURNAL at checkout.

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