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June 21, 2020

Happy International Day of Yoga! Here’s a Collection of 15 Fascinating Vintage Photos of People Doing Yoga From the Past

The International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on June 21 since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2014.

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice which originated in India. The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in his UN address suggested the date of June 21, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares a special significance in many parts of the world. He stated:
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.”
Following this initial proposal, the UNGA held informal consultations on the draft resolution, entitled “International Day of Yoga”, on October 14, 2014. The consultations were convened by the delegation of India.

In 2015 Reserve Bank of India issued a 10 rupees commemorative coin to mark the International Day of Yoga. The first International Day of Yoga created a record for the largest yoga class, and another for the largest number of participating nationalities.

As these incredible images illustrate, yoga has been popular since the early 20th century:

Two ladies practice yoga at La Garoupe Beach in Antibes, France, 1926.

Actress Athene Seyler attempts to contort her body, in a scene from the show “Skin Deep”, ca. 1928. (Sasha/Getty Images).

Enrica “Ricki” Soma grew up in Manhattan as the daughter of Italian immigrants. She became famous as an actress and ballet dancer in the USA, and later married director John Huston. In Soma’s youth, yoga was practiced regularly by her entire family. In this shot, she bends back while father Tony Soma and her siblings train positions like the lotus position, ca. 1930s. (The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

Yoga became the epitome of physical fitness in Europe and the USA in the 1930s. However, such exercises were far from the yoga traditions in India. Here’s a model named Vera Richardson to admire during a gym class, 1938. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

James Hay-Kellie demonstrating yoga positions, ca. 1940. (Tunbridge-Sedgwick Pictorial Press/Getty Images).

At the age of 15 the English dancer Pamela Fawn learned various yoga exercises in her ballet school in Tunbridge Wells in the west of Kent. Headmistress Madame Nicolaeva Legat had given this form of exercise a fixed place in the timetable. In this photo, it appears that Fawn’s body is knotted with that of her classmate Julia Warrack, ca. 1949. (Harold Clements/Getty Images)

Ballet dancers, Sir Paul Dukes, Pamela Fawn and Julia Warrack, during a yoga demonstration, April 1949. (Harold Clements/Express/Getty Images)

Fifteen year old Pamela Fawn performing yoga exercises at the Tunbridge Wells ballet school, May 1949. At the school, run by Madame Nicolaeva Legat, students are taught yoga exercises as well as ordinary scholastic subjects and ballet. (George Konig/Keystone Features/Getty Images).

Contortionist Joe Clemendor impresses the audience at a Paris nightclub with his amazing feats of bodily distortion, made possible by his mastery of Yoga technique, June 1956. (John Sadovy/BIPs/Getty Images).

A child swings suspended in a sling attached to the hair of a yogi practitioner; they both appear to be enjoying the experience, ca. 1960. The occasion is a yoga demonstration at Simla in northern India. There is a bed of nails by the yogi's feet. (Fox Photos/Getty Images).

Hungarian yoga expert Laszlo Szabo demonstrates yoga positions for Budapest TV, March 1963. (Keystone/Getty Images).

American writer Prudence Farrow, younger sister of the actress Mia Farrow, became familiar with the “Transcendental Meditation Technique” while studying in California. It was the time of the flower children; many hippies were drawn to esotericism. Farrow, who later inspired the Beatles to write the song “Dear Prudence”, opened a yoga school in a former church in Boston. In this photo, she receives instructions from the Indian yogi Swami Satchidananda, 1967. (Harry Benson/Getty Images)

English singer Christine Holmes aka Kristine Sparkle was an icon of glam rock in the 1970s. Here she tries to stay balanced while doing yoga exercises in her apartment, 1974. (Getty Images)

Kahti sits in the yoga position, wearing a knitted pant suit from the Autumn and Winter collection by C & A, September 1976. (Evening Standard/Getty Images).

Two men practice yoga in Hyde Park, August 1977. (Colin Davey/Evening Standard/Getty Images).


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