New York’s Times Square will host one of the many worldwide celebrations of the first International Yoga Day Sunday. Coinciding with the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the festivities are expected to draw tens of thousands of people who will participate in yoga classes throughout the day, in an event that will be live-streamed around the world.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to deliver a keynote address at the beginning of the celebration, which will be captured on the iconic seven-story-tall Nasdaq screen in Times Square. “Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spiritual health and well-being,” the U.N. chief said in a message before the event. “It promotes respect for one’s fellow human beings and for the planet we share.”
The idea of an international celebration of the ancient practice was first proposed last year by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who called yoga “a holistic approach to health and well-being” during his address to the U.N. General Assembly in September. Government officials have promoted the event as a means of advancing Indian soft power around the world, an effort that has been met with controversy back home.
The New York festivities will feature a workshop by the spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who will lead a demonstration of the benefits of yoga. “It’s through yoga we can create able citizens, peaceful citizens,” Shankar said. “Yoga is that which unites people across religion, race, nationality.”
While this is the first year that Times Square will host an International Yoga Day observance, the storied New York intersection has been the site of a yoga celebration on the day of the summer solstice for more than a decade.
“Solstice in Times Square originated thirteen years ago when I was joined by two other yogis to do sunrise yoga on the longest day of the year, and it is phenomenal to now see this event grow to become an internationally recognized worldwide celebration,” said Tim Tompkins, the president of the Times Square Alliance. “We look forward to leading the global pose in Times Square and for participants around the world to join in via our webcast.”
Below is a live stream of the celebration provided by the Times Square Alliance: