This year, the longest day of the year is going to be different. Across the globe you will see people stretched out on mats performing yoga.
The United Nations, at the request of India's prime minister Narendra Modi, declared June 21, as International Day of Yoga (IDY) and many countries will be part of the day's celebrations, spearheaded by India and its embassies worldwide.
In Singapore, the High Commission of India is organising the celebrations, with 51 centres across the island hosting activities to mark the occasion.
India's high commissioner to Singapore Vijay Thakur Singh launched the registration portal on May 29 at the High Commission and unveiled the IDY T-shirt, which will be given to all participants who have registered, along with yoga mats and snacks.
As this is a special year for Singapore - marking the 50th year of its independence as well as 50 years of bilateral relations between India and Singapore - the number of venues for the IDY activities, besides the High Commission, were capped at 50.
These locations, explained Ms Singh, range "from schools and universities to workers' dormitories and community centres to Changi International Airport" and cover the whole island, so anyone interested in participating is bound to find a venue close to where they live.
The High Commission has partnered various organisations like Vyasa Yoga, Isha Foundation and Nikam Guruji Yoga Kutir to assist in carrying out the activities for IDY at the venues.
The activities on the day include free yoga classes conducted by yoga experts, followed by a talk on the benefits of yoga and healthy living. The activities are set to start at 8.30am, with a 45-minute yoga session from 9am followed by a talk on healthy living.
Though the event is slated to end at 10am, some organisations will be carrying out activities throughout the day.
Nikam Guruji Yoga Kutir, which conducts free yoga classes at venues around the island, will be conducting the sessions at four venues: The three Global Indian International School (GIIS) campuses in East Coast, Queenstown and Balestier, and the Ramakrishna Mission, where the organisation first started its yoga lessons. Apart from those who have registered at those venues, the organisation is also encouraging students who have previously participated in its programmes to join the activities.
Isha Foundation will be conducting the sessions at ION Orchard, The Star Vista and JCube. It will be offering 45-minute and 90-minute sessions throughout the day at the three venues, along with live musical performances by Isha's homegrown band at the start of and during breaks between sessions at the malls.
For the Isha Foundation, the activities do not end on June 21. The foundation will provide support to participants after the event, in the form of online videos with yoga poses that will be taught during the sessions. After June 21, those looking for yoga workshops at their organisations, companies, clubs, universities or even their homes can arrange sessions with instructors from the Isha Foundation.
As part of the Changi Travellers' Series at Changi Airport, a Vibrant India pavilion was set up on May 29 at Terminal 3's departure hall. With IDY coming up soon, a yoga corner was also set up and will be there until June 28.
The yoga corner is run by Vyasa Yoga, which will be conducting IDY activities at 24 venues including the airport.
Yoga master and Vyasa Yoga's event director K.R. Jeevan, who is in charge of the Stress-free Travel With Yoga @ Changi Airport exhibit, said the response to the yoga corner has been positive.
The exhibit is popular with both travellers and Singaporeans who visit the airport to spend time with family and friends.
"There has been good response so far, especially from the kids," said Mr Jeevan, adding that yoga was something new for the children who stopped by to participate in the short sessions conducted by Vyasa Yoga instructors.
Mrs Pooja Parashar's daughter Kashvi took part in one of the sessions. The family was at the airport for an outing, having heard about the Vibrant India pavilion from DPS International School, where Mrs Parashar works.
"It was a nice session," Mrs Parashar said. She added that her daughter really enjoyed herself. Kashvi goes for yoga classes once a week, and the family is planning to register for the IDY activities.
The sessions conducted by Vyasa Yoga's instructors at the airport range from five to 15 minutes and involve the teaching of simple poses, including some that can be done on chairs, which travellers can practise while waiting for their flights.
For its IDY celebrations at the airport, Vyasa Yoga has invited 20 intellectually-disabled students from MINDS to participate in the yoga session from 9.30 to 10.30am.
Though there is a cap of 50 people joining the session at the airport, the instructors are expecting at least 100 people to show up, including those joining on the spot.
High turnout expected
For the inaugural IDY celebrations, "we are expecting a huge turnout for the celebration", said Ms Singh.
Those who have already signed up are excited about the event.
Mr Kishor Dobariya, who is vice-president of business development at a water treatment plant, and his wife Lata, a Hindi teacher, have both registered to participate at the GIIS East Coast campus. Though the two first learnt yoga in 1997, work has made it harder for them to practise regularly.
Having learnt about IDY through an e-mail from the High Commission and from friends, they signed up hoping to get back into practising yoga regularly. Mr Dobariya added that since they signed up, they have started yoga again "after a break of almost three months".
At the event, they are looking forward to seeing a varied group of people come together, and hope to meet a group of people that they can hold regular practices with. "Group dynamics provide a good drive for everyone to practise regularly," he said.
Ms Elsie Tan, who is self-employed, has been practising yoga for three years and signed up for the events at Star Vista. She found that yoga has helped to improve her health and "helps me stay focused and calm".
She is most looking forward to learning about more yoga practices, "which I believe will bring more well-being into my life".
Said Ms Singh: "I exhort everyone to participate in the event and be a part of this eventful day."
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