June 21 was declared as the International Yoga Day by the United Nations General Assembly. The declaration came after the call by Indian Prime Minister - Shri Narendra Modi. The proposal was supported by the record number of voices - 175 countries.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement - " Yoga is a sport that can contribute to development and peace. Yoga can even help people in emergency situations to find relief from stress", he also added - " Yoga can contribute to resilience against non-communicable diseases and can bring communities together in an inclusive manner that generates respect"
Following the many nations that took up the call to promote Yoga, a two-day International Yoga Festival took place on June 20-21, 2015 in St Petersburg, Russia. The scope of the First International Festival of this type was unparalleled: 20 yoga schools, 31 teachers, 52 classes, 15 traditions, 5 teaching halls, 200 participants, averaging 12 hrs each day. Master-classes organised by teachers of various schools of human development from India, USA, Europe (Czech, Romania, Italy), Russia and Ukraine.
The vision for the Festival, as given by Swami Advaitananda, was to expand the frontiers of Yoga and go beyond solely physical practice, incorporating humanitarian and spiritual aspects. To stretch the boundaries of Yoga to accommodate various wisdom traditions and indicate the one goal through many paths.
The opening ceremony communicated this mission by offering collective prayers from Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Teachers from different traditions, styles and types of Yoga came together to expand the scope of Yoga practice beyond the physical.
Among the wide spectrum of classes, Hatha Yoga was presented by Vinay Siddiah from Bangalore, South India, as well as Adhiyoga - a detailed study of Yoga sutras by Neel Kulkarni form Pune, western India. Various dimensions of Hatha Yoga were presented by Andrei Lobanov from Nizhni Novgorod, Russia. Kundalini Yoga was presented by by Anton Sharaev and Dhyana Yoga & working with Prana sessions by Yogeshvar Karthik.
Workshops on Yoga included 'Nada Yoga & Mantra Yoga' by TV Ramprasad from Chennai, South India. 'Natya Yoga' - Yoga for dancers and Dance as a form of Yoga, was presented by Indira Kadambi from Chennai. Tibetan singing bowls (Alla Nomerova), Qi-Gong (Aleksey Soshenko), Hakim massage technique and Gurjiev dances (Aleksandr Svyatkin), couples Yoga (Svetlana Lobanova) and Yoga for women (Rina Vaisman), tea ceremony (Dmitri Zolotorevski) and aromatherapy (Svetlana Kulikova).
Expanding the theme, following topics were offered: Wisdom of yoga, covering lectures on Yoga philosophy, origins of Yoga, evolution of yoga, psychological dimensions of yoga, yoga in modern context, as well as demystifying misconceptions in the purpose of Yoga.
Spiritual practices included Meditation in Advaita Vedanta (Swami Advaitananda) and Dzogchen Buddhist tradition (presented by Chongtul Rinpoche from New York, USA), introduction into meditation and guidance (presented by Evelina Lotte from New York, USA)
Cultural program has also been introduced showcasing various dance schools, fire show, poetry, art exhibit and fusion musical performances.
St Petersburg has been a historical bridge between Western and Eastern Europe and Russia as a cultural capital and is an ideal place to house a unique Festival of this type. It has demonstrated hospitality, openness and welcoming spirit during and after the event.
The overall experience was amplified by a weather phenomenon of "White Nights", where the daylight extends into the night hours. Located outside of city centre, participants were also able to experience nature and enjoy lush forests and lakes around.
Closing ceremony has brought together the unique features of the event by offering a wide range of performances and welcomed Consul General of India in SPB, Mr Arun Kumar Sharma, as a guest of honour, accompanied by Specialist/Interpreter Alla Doroshenko. Award ceremony was conducted to recognise teachers, volunteers and participants with prizes and souvenirs.