Millions of yoga enthusiasts bent and twisted their bodies in complex postures across India and much of the world on Sunday to mark International Yoga Day. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had lobbied the UN to declare June 21 as a global day for yoga, spread his mat along with rows of other people, including members of his Cabinet and foreign diplomats, at New Delhi's main thoroughfare, which was transformed into a sprawling exercise ground.
Thousands of people dressed in white sat on yellow mats under the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Similar events were held in Beijing, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul, Manila and other places.
"We are not only celebrating a day but we are training the human mind to begin a new era of peace and harmony," Modi told participants. "This is a program for the benefit of mankind, for a tension-free world and to spread the message of harmony."
Tens of thousands of schoolchildren, officials, homemakers, soldiers and other ordinary people took part in the exercise, which was repeated in all of India's state capitals. In Modi's home state of Gujarat, public yoga events were organized at nearly 30,000 places, state officials said.
In Taipei, Taiwan, more than 2,000 participants rolled out mats and performed 108 rounds of the "sun salutation"-the sequence of yoga poses often practiced at the beginning of a routine as the sun rises.
"They give themselves a time to observe their mind and their heart, which I think in 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 everywhere.
"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," he said.
In Belgium, several thousand people attended Yoga Day events in the nation's major cities on Sunday.
In the capital, Brussels, more than 5,000 people-mostly dressed in white-participated in a mass yoga session at the Bois de la Cambre park.
Some 2,500 people attended in Antwerp, while cities such as Ghent and Leuven also saw sizable gatherings.
"I am delighted with the huge response in Belgium to celebrate the International Day of Yoga," said Manjeev Singh Puri, ambassador of India to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union.
Many believe that yoga, an ancient form of movement, is the best way to calm the mind and the best exercise for the body.
Indian officials said more than 35,000 people participated in the New Delhi event, which was also an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the largest single yoga class at a single venue.
(Chinadaily.com.cn June 22, 2015)