On a comprehensive note, Yoga has seen centuries before the first rise of religion and is still one of the most healing ways of life globally. This International Yoga Day, we repeat our pledge with the discipline of physical, mental, and spiritual practices.
Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, a science of well-being, a science of youthfulness, a science of integrating body, mind, and soul.by: Amit Ray
Remembering the roots on International Yoga Day
International Yoga Day would be incomplete without talking about the history of this authentic practice. Tracing the history of yoga takes one back to civilisation. Historical evidences found in the pre-Vedic era (2700 BC) prove the existence of yoga. Vedas (4), Upanishads (108), Smritis, teachings of Buddhism, Jainism, Panini, Epics (2), Puranas (18) serve as our principal sources to know more about the origin and history of yoga. Post 2700B.C., it was the legendary sage Maharshi Patanjali who marshalled and assorted the then existing practices of Yoga through his Yoga Sutras.
The period between 500 BC – 800 A.D. is considerably the Classical period in the history and development of Yoga. Two great religious teachers of India–Mahavir, and Buddha get the credit for this era. This was the period when commentaries of Vyasa on Yoga Sutras and Bhagavadgita became existent.
The Modern period of Yoga,1700-1900 AD was the time when the great Yogacharyas- Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Paramhansa Yogananda, Vivekananda, etc. played a primitive role in the development of Raja Yoga. This was the phase when Vedanta, Bhakti yoga, Nathayoga, or Hatha-yoga flourished.
How did the International Yoga Day start?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his UN General Assembly address in September 2014, took the initiative of declaring June 21st as International Yoga Day. Over 177 countries supported it and thus the declaration took place after 175 countries cosponsored the resolution. Amidst the caterwauling of COVID-19, there’s a twist this year. With the lockdown and social distancing norms this 2020, India is celebrating with the theme Yoga at home and Yoga with family.
Because of the contagious nature of COVID-19, no mass gathering would be possible. So, the ministry has encouraged people to practise yoga at home with their families. This way we can undertake the pacifying Yoga while maintaining the social distancing norms. As a matter of fact it’s advisable to dedicate some of your time to this extensive easing practice daily, and not just on International Yoga Day.
Yoga boosts immunity, PM Modi said in his address to the nation, adding that
A lot of coronavirus patients across the world are benefiting because of yoga. It gives us the confidence to struggle during the difficult times and emerge victorious. Yoga gives us physical strength and peace of mind,by: Narendra Modi
Famous Indians on International Yoga Day
President Kovind took to Twitter to flaunt a few poses of Yoga on International yoga day and also expressed his joy over Yoga’s mass appeal.
To reiterate on the practice of Yoga with adherence to social distancing Swami Ramdev, a master of Yoga uploaded videos and photos of people doing simple yet beneficial Yoga asanas on Twitter.
The mystic and yogi Sadhguru also tweeted saying,” The purpose of yoga is to live strong. Strong not just in body, but as a Strong life.”
Anupam Kher gave a beautiful message through his one liner tweet by saying, “If you can’t go outside. Go inside.”
Many Others like Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Meenakshi Lekhi, Shilpa Shetty Kundra and Bipasha Basu also tweeted inspiring lines on the occasion of International Yoga Day.
Why do we support Yoga?
Yoga or Union is a 5000-year-old heritage of Indian practice. Yoga integrates knowledge of harmonising the body with the mind and breathing through the means of various breathing exercises, yoga poses (asanas) and meditation. We consider it being a firm restraint of senses and this is one reason International Yoga Day has got such a wide acceptance.
Although, it is a natural way of saying that we can take our mind and body under control because of the revolutionary practices and science we forgot about. This caused human beings to be under stress, anxiety, depression, and they saw death without being able to control.
While conversing with Oprah about finding positivity through Yoga Christy Turlington’s words leave us in a state of awe for Yoga. She said, “Yoga has brought me to the part of religion I really like. The positive sides of religion, the parts we all share, rather than the things that create separation.”
But later on, when the west practiced it, they realised that it is a symbol of universal aspiration for health and wellbeing. Yoga has shown the way from illness to wellness. Today we celebrate Yoga as a festival, throughout the world irrespective of region and religion.
When we see the world going apart with power, jealousy, selfishness Yoga brings family, people, society, nations together as a force in unity. This reminds us of the time when Swami Vivekananda said, “All this bringing of the mind into a higher state of vibration is included in one word in Yoga.”
For instance, till now only a few people were practicing Yoga based on their interest and health. When COVID-19 disrupted all activities and forced people to stay indoors, we see that Yoga is making them survive through stress, depression, anxiety as a family. It is forcing the family to stay healthy together. We can see nature is pulling back human beings to come to terms with the simplicity of nature.
In the intellectual words of B. K. S. Iyengar, “Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim. The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” The Gita has beautifully stated, “Yoga is the journey of the self, to the self, through the self.”
From ordinary people to celebrities, everyone has taken seriously the benefits of practicing Yoga amid this Pandemic crisis. We believe that Yoga has various Pranayama that strengthens the respiratory system which is the need at this hour. Yoga is undoubtedly the future path to global peace and harmony. International Yoga Day is a subtle nudge aimed at making us realize the value of Yoga.
For beginners, the following is the most essential they have to practise:
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana or Downward Facing Dog
Come onto your fours. Form your back like a tabletop and stretch your hands and feet to form like the legs of the table.
As you exhale lift the hips, straightening the knees and elbows, form an inverted V-shape with the body. Hands are shoulder-width apart, parallelly keep the feet like hip-width apart, and toes point straight ahead. Press your hands into the ground. Widen through the shoulder blades. Stretch the neck by touching the ears to the inner arms.
While looking into the navel, hold towards the downward dog pose and take long deep breaths.
Exhale. Bend the knees, return to table pose. Relax.
The asanas we’ve talked about are just a few examples of how easily relieving Yoga is. A day does not have to have the tag of being the International Yoga Day for us to perform the basic, aforesaid asanas.
2. Phalakasana or Plank pose
Plank helps us to balance on our hands while using the entire body to support us. From high-low-jack, tuck under your toes and lift your legs off the mat. Slide your heels back enough until you are feeling you are one line of energy from your head to your feet.
Engage the lower abdominals, draw the shoulders down and far away from the ears, pull your ribs together, and breathe deeply for 8-10 breaths.
This strengthens our abdominals and teaches us to control our breathing, thus helping us stay in this challenging pose.
3. Balasana or Child’s Pose
Start on all high-low-jack then bring your knees and feet together as you sit your butt back to your heels and stretch your arms forward. Lower your forehead to the ground (or block or pillow or blanket) and let your entire body release. Hold for as long as you wish!
It’s good to find out the Child’s Pose when you’re fatigued in Down Dog, before bed in the dark to figure out the kinks, or anytime you would like a mental break and stress/tension relief.
4. Virabhadrasana 2 or Warrior 2
Stand with your feet one legs-length apart. Turn your right toes out 90 degrees and your left toes in 45 degrees. Bend your right knee until it’s directly over your right ankle while keeping the torso even between the hips.
Stretch your arms bent to your sides and gaze over your right. Hold for 8-10 breaths before straightening the right leg and turning your feet to the other side to repeat on the left side.
This pose is an external hip opener and opens up the inner thighs. It is an excellent starting point for many side postures including triangle, extended angle, and half-moon balance.
5. Vrksasana or Tree Pose
Start together with your feet and place your right foot on your inner left upper thigh. Join your hands in prayer and find a spot ahead of you where you can hold during a steady gaze.
Hold and breathe for 8-10 breaths, then switch sides. Make sure you don’t lean into the standing leg and keep your abdominals engaged and shoulders relaxed.
This pose is standing balance to work on, to gain focus and clarity, learn to breathe while standing, and keeping the body balanced on one foot. This is a simple posture than all age groups can try this International Yoga Day.
International Yoga Day and COVID-19
International Yoga Day is relatively more important in 2020 as we’re facing a catastrophic pandemic.
Yoga is not about physical appearance but about the development of inner awareness. It focuses on bringing attention to basic aspects like breathing, physical and mental strength.
In this present situation, recognising the importance of Yoga should be the mission. International Yoga day is just another reminder for us to adapt to abrupt changes in our lifestyle. Therefore, nature is throwing the challenges of work from home and lack of physical contact with friends and colleagues at people.
Given the increase in depression and anxiety among the people, the coherent message of yoga promotes physical and mental health. In the direful, global circumstance with the pandemic, this International Yoga Day has a lot more relevance than usual. The global population will definitely receive it with warmth. However, the question remains, isn’t the entire concept of Yoga at stake when we remember its advantages and partake in it only on International Yoga Day? Isn’t it high time that we focused on our wellbeing and dedicated a few moments of the day to this historically mitigating practice? This International Yoga Day, ask yourselves that question and introspect for yourselves.