Beijing/London: From China's famed Shaolin Temple to Britain's iconic St. Paul's Cathedral, yoga enthusiasts rolled out their mats on Friday to participate in colourful events held across the world to mark the fifth International Yoga Day.
June 21, the Northern Hemisphere's longest day, is celebrated as the International Yoga Day worldwide after the United Nations General Assembly adopted in 2014 a proposal mooted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Yoga has become immensely popular all over China in the past few decades and is emerging as a major fitness discipline which is specially promoted by the Chinese Ministry of Sports.
Hundreds of yoga enthusiasts took part in the yoga day event organised by the Indian Embassy in Beijing at the India House in which Indian Ambassador Vikram Misri and his wife were present.
Addressing the yoga enthusiasts, Misri said yoga represents not just the civilisational connect between India and China "but also the modern aspirations of our two peoples, that acknowledges the shared benefit of working together in spirit of friendship and cooperation".
Yoga events were held at the Tianhe Tan Park in Guiyang, Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan, Shaolin Temple in Henan and Qingdao city in Shandong, the Indian Embassy said in a statement.
The Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan province is a famed Buddhist temple believed to have been founded in the 5th century CE. It is the main temple of the Shaolin school of Buddhism.
In the UK, yoga enthusiasts marked the day with a session at the iconic Durdle Door stone arch, a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site on the south-western coast of England.
The first-of-its-kind open-air event at the site, which involved around 30 yoga enthusiasts performing asanas, was organised by India Tourism London.
The Indian High Commission's annual yoga session in London took place near another famous UK tourist spot of St. Paul's Cathedral in the British capital.
In Israel, over 400 people performed asanas to mark the International Day of Yoga at the picturesque Hatachana compound in Jerusalem, with India's envoy to Israel Pavan Kapoor asking the Israeli government to consider making it a part of the annual calendar of events.
"It always amazes me to see how popular yoga is in Israel. The number of teachers that you have in the country. The different kind of yoga that is practiced and taught. Everything from pre-school yoga to workplace yoga," Kapoor said.
In a first of its kind yoga celebration, the iconic UN General Assembly hall reverberated with chants of 'Om', 'Shanti' as UN officials and diplomats joined hundreds others to commemorate the International Yoga Day with the underlying message of yoga's valuable contribution in addressing climate change and promoting tolerance and peace.
It was the first time a grand yoga event was held inside the iconic UNGA hall.
In Singapore, the Indian High Commission observed the International Yoga Day at the Sunlove Homes for the Intellectually Infirmed, Demantia and elderly day care centre.
The yoga sessions held across the city-state, touched the lives of the physically challenged, the commission said.
In Abu Dhabi, thousands of Indian expatriate residents and others participated in yoga sessions.
The Indian Embassy in Abu Dhabi hosted the celebrations at the Umm Al Emarat Park from 7 p.m. onwards on Thursday evening, the Gulf News reported.
Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, United Arab Emirates' (UAE) Minister of Tolerance, who was the chief guest along with Charge d'Affaires of the mission, Smita Pant, inaugurated the event.
Shaikh Nahyan congratulated India on the occasion and said: "Yoga encourages an attitude that looks towards a common humanity as an extension of the ancient principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam," the report added.
In Bangladesh, the yoga day celebration at the Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka drew around 7,000 enthusiasts joining the sessions organised by the Indian High Commission.
Sports associations, Yoga associations and Institutes, students from various schools, colleges and universities in Bangladesh participated in the celebrations. Several celebrities including sports personalities, popular film actors, and singers also participated in the event.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted a video in which he is seen performing asanas.
"I compliment my friend @narendramodi for his efforts at bringing our common heritage of Yoga to the international stage. I urge all to practice yoga like me," he tweeted.
The fifth International Yoga Day was also celebrated across Australian cities, including Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.
A yoga session was held in the Indian High Commission in Canberra on Friday.
According to the World Health Organisation, yoga is a valuable tool to increase physical activity and decrease non-communicable disease such as hypertension, diabetes, heart diseases and stroke.