What is Yoga?
The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuja’ which simply means to unite and align. It is the disciplining of the mental, physical and the spiritual self in a manner that promotes harmony, union and balance between the three.
Having originated in ancient India and dating back roughly to its mention in the Rigveda, Yoga is a dominant part of the Hindu philosophical tradition. However, it has undergone significant changes, and the modern form also includes a wide variety of asanas (yoga postures). Recently, Yoga has been gaining popularity across the western world as well. With the result that, since 2015, June 21 is celebrated as the International Day of Yoga.
When and How did International Yoga Day start?
The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi had first sowed the idea of celebrating International Yoga Day. On September 27, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously decided to take forward this idea. Consequently, after Mr. Modi’s suggestion, June 21 is globally observed as the International Day of Yoga (or International Yoga Day) every year. Talking about the importance of Yoga, the Indian Prime Minister said, “Yoga has the perfect solution to the problems we face, either as individuals or in society. Yoga is beautiful because it is ancient yet modern,”. Moreover, it is precisely observed on June 21 because that is the day of the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Since it is located in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the longest day of the year in India.
Why is Yoga Important?
Apart from uniting the mind, body and soul in harmony, Yoga has a lot of other mental and physical health benefits as well. It trains the body toward natural self-healing and repair. From reducing the stress levels, to controlling high blood pressure, Yoga provides numerous mental and physical health benefits.
Physical Health Benefits
Yoga helps to control weight, increases muscular strength, boosts the immune system and strengthens the respiratory glands. It also reduces the blood sugar levels and increases blood flow, apart from providing a straight posture and fast repair of body tissues. Moreover, it is known to improve the bone density and prevent cartilage breakdown, as well as create an effective and balanced metabolism .
Mental Health Benefits
Today, mental health has become a priority for a large section of our society. With mankind’s constant involvement into various stress inducing 9 to 5 jobs and around the clock work schedule, mental health has become a major concern. Here, Yoga comes to the rescue, acting as a natural therapy to manage stress and other psychological problems. It has become so essential for the well being, since it brings clarity, calmness and improves concentration in individuals.
Global Reach of Yoga
India has certainly set a new benchmark in the global market with its launch of the International Yoga Day, landing India a strong foothold in the international community. Yoga is now no longer an integral part of India only, but of several other countries across the globe. Other than the idea of promoting health and healing, the global inception of Yoga has helped in fostering better relationships and connectivity across state and country borders. This has also strengthened the idea of global citizenship keeping in mind both the political and economic context.
Celebrity cricketers Chris Gayle (West Indies) and Shane Watson (Australia) have credited the powerful effects of breathing, meditation and exercises related to Yoga to perform well in their careers. Other celebrities like actor Jennifer Aniston, supermodel Gisele Bundchen, and singer Beyonce have also been documented in Yoga poses, attesting to its appeal in maintaining mind-body balance. Yoga also received a boost when an all women mountaineering team of Indian Army officers performed Yoga at an altitude of 19,022 ft on Mt. Bhagirathi in summer 2018.