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Annelies Richmond Leads Yoga Day Celebrations at UN With PM Modi: Who Is She?

Before getting into yoga, Annelies spent 15 years in New York as a professional ballerina.

South Asians
3 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

Senior Editor: Namita Handa

  • 01/03

    Participants at the Yoga Day event led by PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.

    (Photo: Twitter)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Participants at the Yoga Day event led by PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.</p></div>
  • 02/03

    Participants at the Yoga Day event led by PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.

    (Photo: Twitter)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>Participants at the Yoga Day event led by PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.</p></div>
  • 03/03

    PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.

    (Photo: PTI)

    <div class="paragraphs"><p>PM Modi at the UN Headquarters in New York.</p></div>

A professional ballerina, a yoga trainer who focuses on breathwork and meditation, and a faculty at several prestigious universities in the United States – 47-year-old Annelies Richmond dons many hats.

On Wednesday, 21 June – International Yoga Day – she added yet another feather to her cap by leading the International Yoga Day celebrations from the United Nations Headquarters in New York, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a three-day state visit.

Annelies is leading the yoga session for 25 minutes at the outdoor area of the UN Headquarters, as per The Indian Express. "I will be heading a group of six American children – in the age group of 8-12 years – who have been practising 'asanas'," she told the publication.

So, who is Annelies Richmond? What got her into yoga? How did she come to lead the International Yoga Day celebrations?


A Ballerina-Turned-Yoga Master

Annelies spent 15 years in New York City as a professional ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera. She got exposed to yoga when she was 18, but she really got into it only at the age of 23 – when she discovered that certain breathwork and meditation practices eased her anxiety while navigating a high-pressure career.

It was through yoga guru Ravishankar's Art of Living that Annelies explored the nooks and corners of yoga.

"While 'asanas' were helping me in physical healing, from my injuries and stiffness, it was the 'pranayama' and the 'sudarshan kriya' that helped me get over the anxiety and depression that came with my profession."
Annelies to IE

Annelies as a ballerina working at the Metropolitan Opera.

(Photo: Instagram)

Moved by the effects of yoga – especially the 'sudarshan kriya' practice – she founded the SKY Campus Happiness Program, which is a well-being programme for university students.

It is being utilised by students in over 100 universities across the United States.


Annelies is a faculty at the University of Southern Maine, and conducts lectures at top-tier institutes such as Yale University, MIT, UPENN, and Columbia University.

She has also taught youngsters at correctional facilities across the country. "... The first day of these courses usually comes with a lot of disrespect. The kids aren't interested in anything I have to say. But I just have to keep reminding myself that their behaviour has nothing to do with me and that I can't take offense to how they're reacting to me," she had written about her experience in one of her blogs.

Annelies on one of her trips to India.

(Photo: Instagram)

The India Connection

Annelies travelled to India for the first time in 2006 – to learn yoga at the Art of Living campus in Bengaluru, according to IE. She has made several trips to the country thereon.

"My first experience with Art of Living and the teachings of Sri Sri Ravishankar completely blew me away. I started noticing the trees when I would walk to the subway. I started feeling more happy at work. Anything bothersome that would happen would just roll off my back, as long as I was practicing the techniques I'd learned," she wrote in her blog.

Annelies with yoga guru Ravishankar.

(Photo: Instagram)

"But the most astounding thing for me, and for my career, was that after I started practicing meditation daily, the nervousness just disappeared," she added.

Annelies has also trained over 1,200 certified meditation and leadership instructors in five countries as the director of Teacher Training for Art of Living-USA.

She told IE that for the yoga event on Wednesday, she was contacted by the Indian representatives at the UN through her local teacher in NYC. She was asked about "her brush with yoga, and how it helped her heal."

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