That’s the simple message as once again International Yoga Day draws world attention to the treasure that is Yoga
Every June 21, since 2015, the world has been marking International Yoga Day. Based on India’s proposal, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to the effect that the day of the summer solstice — when the northern hemisphere marks its longest day — would be celebrated for all things Yoga.
All the activities on this day are meant to generate greater awareness about this ancient Indian discipline. The hope is that more people adopt Yoga and make it a part of their lives.
This year International Yoga Day has as its theme — Yoga for Humanity. The aim is to show how Yoga has helped us withstand the pandemic, by improving our physical and mental wellbeing.
With the world continuing to grapple with the pandemic, the focus over the past 3 years has been on how Yoga can help mankind tide over this crisis. Last year, the theme was Yoga for Wellness, showing among other things how Yoga helps in boosting immunity. The year before that, at the height of the pandemic and worldwide lockdowns, the theme was Yoga at Home, Yoga with the Family.
Yoga creates balance
Although there are games and sports and exercise routines to suit every temperament, Yoga goes far beyond being just a means to fit in some movement and get your heart rate up. When practiced holistically, it becomes a way to unite the mind, body and spirit in ways that create equanimity and a sense of balance in all spheres of our existence.
Isn’t this what all of us are seeking, both in an individual capacity as also collectively.
More so now than ever before!
The world is in need of balance!
The loss of lives during the pandemic against a backdrop of civil strife in various hotspots around the world, war and mass human displacement, the deadly effects of climate change — these and other crises have scarred our collective psyche. We crave healing on many different levels. Our planet too demands balance from us. It demands that we balance our consumption patterns, rein in our excesses and work towards solutions that are sustainable and lead to a greener, healthier planet.
Here’s where Yoga practically screams out that it can help us achieve this, and more. Are we ready to listen?
How Yoga can heal
By turning to Yoga, understanding its rich philosophy, by creating a daily Yoga practice that includes physical postures, deep breathing and meditation, one can begin our journey back towards health and wellbeing. As we move towards balance in our individual lives, we will want to extend this source of wellbeing to all our fellow human beings, and onwards to the flora and fauna of our beautiful planet.
Our Yoga practice will lead us naturally to a methodical study of all 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga. These are the Yamas, Niyamas (ethical rules and observances that guide one’s life) Asanas (physical postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (enlightenment).
The beauty is that each branch builds upon each other slowly transforming a practitioner from the inside out. Simultaneously, we also begin to move from appreciating and caring for our physical bodies to a better understanding of our intellect and the very depths of our soul.
This goes to show that our mind-body complex is indivisible. The ancient yogis understood this. That’s why they emphasized that physical health requires mental wellbeing and vice versa.
And that’s the reason why Yoga, as they have developed and taught it, requires that we too practice it holistically. We must try and avoid falling into the rut of giving the physical Asana routine importance to the exclusion of the other 7 branches. We lose out then on Yoga’s enormous therapeutic benefits.
Yoga is integrative
Yoga serves as complement to just about every activity that you engage in. You might be one of those who find the pace of Yoga slow and would rather hit the gym.
And yet you could benefit from the strengthening postures and the stretches that form an integral part of Yoga’s asanas. The Yamas and Niyamas help in creating stronger, more resilient minds, imbuing you with willpower and discipline.
Yoga as a mind management tool can benefit each one of us.
Say for instance, you are a dancer; Yoga can help you wind down after a strenuous performance. You might be a jogger and you can warm up with Yoga.
Let’s take careers — you might be a banker and there are simple chair Yoga poses that you can slip in during a break right at your desk. Or you might be a surgeon and the long hours spent standing can be offset with a customized Yoga routine that takes the fatigue out of those calves and feet, your compressed lower back and strained neck.
So, it’s never this and that OR Yoga, but always this, that AND Yoga.
The word Yoga itself mean union. And so, Yoga serves to integrate, to heal, to nurture, to build.
This International Yoga Day, let’s give due recognition to the treasure that is Yoga. Let’s learn more about this ancient discipline and let’s practice it holistically so we can evolve as people and transform ourselves for the betterment of all mankind and our planet.