Ban Ki-moon says he needs to be fit and agile in his job as the top diplomat at the United Nations. And he is, easily managing World Yoga Day inaugural 'asanas' on Sunday.
Men and women much younger quietly withdrew after a bit but Ban, 71, and his 70-year-old wife Yoo Soon-taek pressed on, stretching and twisting their bodes as directed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Ban first tried yoga on an earlier visit to India. And he had felt a certain peace of mind then, he said at an event commemorating the first World Yoga Day at the UN.
Just a few miles away, the event was beamed live at Times Square, where the annual summer solstice was being observed in conjunction with yoga day.
About 17,000 people showed up at Times Square.
Ban Ki-moon, dressed in white, joined the yoga gathering late in the morning in one of the most recognizable squares in the world.
Ban hailed the many benefits the ancient exercise could bring to people around the world.
"To all of you I say: Namaste!" the UN leader told the crowd.
"My hope is that yoga will give people everywhere the sense and the oneness we need to work together to live in harmony and usher in a life of dignity for all."
It was here at the United Nations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a World Yoga Day in his maiden speech to the General Assembly on September 27, 2014.
India launched a formal process just a few days after and soon 176 member countries signed on as co-sponsors, and it was passed unanimously by 192 countries, a record.
World Yoga Day is now a “wonderful addition” to UN calendar, as Ban put it. And he clearly loved going through the paces, under the unswerving gaze of TV crews and photographers.
“By celebrating yoga today we are celebrating our common humanity, a sense of shared moral fate,” said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, welcoming guests.
Long-time practitioner Denis Kripadevi, who is of Croatian descent, was among those who brought their own mats to participate in the celebration.
“It’s an important day for yoga, which is quite popular as is,” she said, adding, “but now it has the support and backing of states and governments all around the world.”
She was extremely excited about it, she said.
And so was Kala Iyengar, a member of the organisation of Brahmakumaris, She has been doing yoga for the past 35 years, she said, and came to the event after her morning routine.
But when she saw others rolling out their yoga mats, the retired pediatrician turned to others in her group of Brahmakumaris and said, “We should have got our Yoga mats.”
Similar World Yoga Day events were organised in other parts of the United States, including in Washington DC, where it was held on the iconic national mall, their Rajpath.
(With agency inputs)