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PM Narendra Modi led the Yoga Day celebrations at the UN headquarters in New York.

United Nations:

Yoga does not belong to any one country, religion or ethnicity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday, as he led an unprecedented yoga session at the United Nations Headquarters, marking the ninth annual International Day of Yoga. “Yoga is free from copyrights, patents and free from royalty payments. Yoga is adaptable to your age, gender and fitness level. Yoga is portable and is truly universal,” PM Modi said in his address at the event, wearing a white yoga t-shirt and trousers.

The session saw the participation of top UN officials, diplomats, and prominent individuals from around the world, including attendees from more than 180 countries representing various walks of life such as diplomats, artists, academicians, and entrepreneurs.

The yoga session took place from 8 to 9 am at the expansive North Lawn in the UN Headquarters, where a bust of Mahatma Gandhi, a gift from India to the UN, was installed last December during the country’s Presidency of the UN Security Council.

Prime Minister Modi paid his respects to the bust of Mahatma Gandhi and acknowledged the memorial to the freedom movement icon, noting India’s significant contribution as the largest troop and police contributing country to UN peacekeepers.

“I am delighted to see you all, and thank you all for coming. I am told that almost every nationality is represented here today. Yoga means to unite, so you are coming together is an expression of another form of yoga,” PM Modi said.

Hundreds of yellow yoga mats were placed on the ground where yoga enthusiasts and practitioners joined the event. LED screens playing videos of Indian culture and heritage were set up on the lawn.

President of the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly Csaba Korosi, Hollywood actor Richard Gere, Mayor of New York City Eric Adams and Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations Amina J Mohammed were among prominent individuals who attended the event.

“The feeling here is so open and embracing, I hope this feeling intoxicates the entire building. It’s a really nice feeling here today,” Mr Gere said ahead of the event.

This year’s International Day of Yoga held particular significance, as it was seen as the realization of a vision presented by the Prime Minister nine years ago from the United Nations General Assembly podium. He proposed marking International Yoga Day as an annual celebration, a vision that has now become a UN-mandated occasion.

Since its inception in 2015, the International Day of Yoga has grown in popularity, with events held at the UN, Times Square, and other iconic locations across the world. In a message before the event, PM Modi stressed the unifying nature of the practice. “India has always nurtured traditions that unite, adopt and embrace,” he said.

Prime Minister Modi, currently on the first leg of his first state visit to the United States at the invitation of President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, also highlighted the international appeal of the yoga event. He revealed that the celebration is unique this year, as researchers at India’s research stations in the Arctic and Antarctica were also participating.

Ruchira Kamboj, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, echoed PM Modi’s sentiments, stating that the yoga event, which generated a lot of anticipation and excitement, was a very “unique occasion.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his message for Yoga Day, praised the practice as a uniting force. He underscored the critical benefits of this ancient practice in a world fraught with danger and division, saying that yoga offers a haven of calm, reduces anxiety, promotes mental well-being, and fosters discipline and patience.

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