Ahead of his ‘special yoga session,’ PM Modi posted a video message in which he stated that India has always cultivated traditions that unify, adopt, and embrace, and he made a passionate appeal to erase contradictions, barriers, and resistances via yoga. Through yoga, we must get rid of our paradoxes, obstacles, and resistances. The ethos of “Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat” must be displayed as an example to the rest of the world, the PM remarked.
Annelies Richmond was up on stage leading the 9th International Yoga Day celebrations from the United Nations Headquarters, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 21, 2023.
“It is a great honour for me to be leading the Yoga session for PM Modi,” says Richmond, who now teaches yoga at more than 108 universities across America, including Harvard, Stanford and Columbia. “Stress and mental-health issues are the same for students in any part of the world,” she says, adding, “It’s natural because there is a lot of pressure on them to excel and a lot is at stake. But we have seen that yoga and meditation help them,” Annelies told Indian Express.
The Indian Express stated that the 47-year-old dancer, who is also a yoga instructor and a professor at various esteemed colleges in the United States, Richmond, guided the yoga practice for 25 minutes outside the UN Headquarters. She was reported in the newspaper as saying, “I will be guiding a group of six American youngsters, in the age bracket of 8-12 years, who have been practising ‘asanas’. It is a huge pleasure for me to be conducting the yoga session for PM Modi.
But who exactly is Annelies Richmond?
Annelies Richmond spent 15 years as a professional ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. When she was just 18 years old, she had her first experience with yoga, but she didn’t like it since she thought it was simply stretching.
She established the SKY Campus Happiness programme, a well-being project for college students, after becoming inspired by the advantages of yoga. Students at more than 100 colleges in America use the programme.
In addition to lecturing at prestigious universities including Yale University, MIT, UPENN, and Columbia University, Richmond is a faculty member of the University of Southern Maine.
However, at the age of 23, she rediscovered yoga through Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living (AOL), and the love story started. According to Richmond, the yoga asanas first aided in her physical recovery from her ailments and discomfort.
Richmond, AOL and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Richmond’s connection to yoga comes through Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living, and she credits the centre with inspiring her love of traditional Indian exercise.
Richmond visited the AOL campus in Bengaluru in 2006 to practise yoga, and even then she has cherished a connection to India. She has visited the nation on several occasions and has complimented both it and yoga for changing her attitude on life.
When asked how she was approached for the big yoga event, she informed The Indian Express that it came through Indian delegates at the UN and her local instructor in New York City.