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International Day of Yoga 2017

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Yoga is an ancient physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in India; aims to transform both body and mind; is now practiced in various forms around the world and continues to grow in popularity. Looking at this increasing popularity of yoga, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggested at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)  that yoga be given a special day as it is beneficial for everyone and making it a world event would help in spreading awareness about benefits of practicing yoga. Recognizing its universal appeal, on 11 December 2014, by resolution 69/131, the United Nations proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga. Since then, millions of people have been holding yoga programmes across the world on this day.

Yoga not only keeps you fit but also has a lot of long-term benefits when you make it an integral part of your lifestyle.

 Yoga is a discipline to improve or develop one’s inherent power in a balanced manner. It offers the means to attain complete self-realization. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word Yoga is ’Yoke’ and means to join or to unite, symbolizing the union of body and consciousness. Yoga can therefore be defined as a means of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit of God. According to Maharishi Patanjali, Yoga is the suppression of modifications of the mind.

The concepts and practices of Yoga originated in India about several thousand years ago. Its founders were great Saints and Sages. The great Yogis presented rational interpretation of their experiences of Yoga and brought about a practical and scientifically sound method within every one’s reach. Yoga today, is no longer restricted to hermits, saints, and sages; it has entered into our everyday lives and has aroused a worldwide awakening and acceptance in the last few decades. The science of Yoga and its techniques have now been reoriented to suit modern sociological needs and lifestyles. Experts of various branches of medicine including modern medical sciences are realizing the role of these techniques in the prevention and mitigation of diseases and promotion of health.

Yoga is one of the six systems of Vedic philosophy. Maharishi Patanjali, rightly called “The Father of Yoga” compiled and refined various aspects of Yoga systematically in his “Yoga Sutras” (aphorisms). He advocated the eight folds path of Yoga, popularly known as “Ashtanga Yoga” for all-round development of human beings. They are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These components advocate certain restraints and observances, physical discipline, breath regulations, restraining the sense organs, contemplation, meditation and Samadhi. These steps are believed to have a potential for improvement of physical health by enhancing circulation of oxygenated blood in the body, retraining the sense organs thereby inducing tranquility and serenity of mind. The practice of Yoga prevents psychosomatic disorders and improves an individual’s resistance and ability to endure stressful situations.

 Salient Features of Yoga:

Yoga a universal practical discipline: Yoga is universal in character for practice and application irrespective of culture, nationality, race, caste, creed, sex, age and physical condition. Sadhana, the regular practice, creates a pattern in body and mind to uplift them. With practice one can experience the utility of Yogic techniques and realize of its inherent potential of Yoga. It requires keen desire on the part of the practitioner to experience the higher states of consciousness through training the mind and refining the gross consciousness to become an accomplished Yogi.

Yoga is an evolutionary process: in the development of human consciousness. Evolution of total consciousness begins in a particular person only if one chooses it. The vices like use of alcohol and drugs, working exhaustively, indulging too much in sex and other stimulation is to seek oblivion, a return to unconsciousness. Indian yogis begin from the point where western psychology end. If Fraud’s psychology (Why good people do bad things) is the psychology of disease and Maslow’s psychology is the psychology of the healthy man then Indian psychology is the psychology of enlightenment. In Yoga, it is not a question of psychology of man rather it is a question of higher consciousness. It is not also the question of mental health; rather, it is question of spiritual growth.

 Yoga as soul therapy: All paths of Yoga (Japa, Karma, Bhakti etc.) have healing potential to shelter out the effects of pains. However, one especially needs proper guidance from an accomplished exponent, who has already treaded the same track to reach the ultimate goal. The particular path is to be chosen very cautiously in view of his aptitude either with the help of a competent counselor or consulting an accomplished Yogi.

Types of Yoga:

 Japa Yoga: To concentrate one’s mind on divine name or holy syllable, mantra etc. like ’OM’, ‘Rama’, ’Allah’, ’God’, ’Vahe Guru’ etc. through repeated recitation or remembrance.

 

Karma Yoga: Teaches us to perform all actions without having any desire for their fruit. In this sadhana, a Yogi considers his duty as divine action, perform it with whole-hearted dedication but shuns away all desires.

 

Gyana Yoga: Teaches us to discriminate between self and non-self and to acquire the knowledge of one’s spiritual entity through the study of scriptures, company of Saints and practices of meditation.

Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti Yoga, a system of intense devotion with emphasis on complete surrender to divine will. The true follower of Bhakti Yoga is free from egoism remains humble and unaffected by the dualities of the world.

 

Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga popularly known as “Ashtanga Yoga” is for all-round development of human beings. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

 

Swara Yoga: Swara Yoga is the Science which is about the realization of cosmic consciousness, through the awareness/ observation then control/ manipulation of the flow of breath in the nostrils. Swara Yoga involves the systematic study of the breath flowing through the nostril (or Swara) in relation to the prevailing phases of the Sun, Moon, time of day and direction. It is the association of the breath in relation to the activities or phases or positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets, Seasons, Time of day, with the physical and mental conditions of the individual and then taking the appropriate action according to these subtle relations.

 

Kundalini:  Yoga is a part of Tantric Tradition. Since the dawn of creation, the Tantrics and yogis have realized that in this physical body, there is a potential force residing in Muladhara Chakra, the first of seven Chakras. The seat of Kundalini is a small gland at the base of the spinal cord. In the masculine body it is in the perineum between the urinary and excretory organs. In the female body its location is at the root of the uterus in the cervix. Those people who have awakened this supernatural force have been called Rishis, Prophets, Yogis, Siddhas and other names according to the time, tradition and culture. To awaken the Kundalini, you must prepare yourself through yogic techniques such as Shatkriya, Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra and Meditation. Awakening of Kundalini results in an explosion in the brain as the dormant or sleeping areas start blossoming like flowers.

Nadi: As described by Yogic texts, Nadis are flow of energy which we can visualize at the psychic level as having distinct channels, light, colour, sound and other characteristics. The entire network of nadis is so vast that even yogic texts differ in their calculations of the exact number. Reference in the Goraksha Sataka or Goraksh Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika place their number at 72,000; emerged from the navel center- the Manipuri Chakra. Of all the thousands of nadis, Susumna is said to be the most important. The Shiva Swarodaya enumerates ten major nadis which connect to the ‘doorways’ leading in and out of the body. Of these ten, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are the most important, they are the high voltage wires which conduct the energy to the substations or Chakras situated along the spinal column.

Yoga for Health

The theme for the 2017 celebration, organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, is ‘Yoga for Health.’ The theme highlights the fact that yoga can contribute in a holistic way to achieving equilibrium between mind and body. The organizers believe that this approach to health and wellbeing can make a direct and useful contribution to humankind’s quest to achieve sustainable development and move towards lifestyles that are in harmony with nature.

The third International Yoga Day 2017 was celebrated in nearly 180 nations with much fervor.  United Nations Headquarters was lit up with images of yoga postures. It was celebrated from China’s Great Wall to Britain’s London Eye. Yoga enthusiasts performed ‘asanas’ at iconic landmarks as several events were held in various countries to mark the event. In China, a large number of Chinese yoga enthusiasts participated in a colorful yoga event at Great Wall on the eve of the International Yoga Day. In the UK, yoga enthusiasts have been participating in mega yoga events this week at iconic tourist attractions such as the London Eye and Trafalgar Square to celebrate the third International Day of Yoga. In the US, a large number of people including from the Indian community participated in special yoga sessions organized by the Indian Consulate to commemorate the third International Yoga Day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the celebrations for the event at the Ramabai Ambedkar Maidan in Lucknow. Several schools, colleges and offices, across all states organized events to encourage people from all walks to life to include yoga in their daily routine. Over the last few months, PM Modi had been posting videos on his twitter account about several asanas that are good for the mind and body and has recommended following for the International Yoga Day 2017:

  1. Vajrasana, Sitali Pranayam 
  2. Nadi Shodhan Pranayama
  3. Shashankasana
  4. Setu Bandhasana
  5. Ardha Halasana
  6. Uttanpadasana
  7. Bhujangasana
  8. Shalabasana
  9. Pawanmuktasana

The Ministry of AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoepathy),   released a day before  the International Yoga Day, the new ‘Common Yoga Protocol’ booklet, that has a wealth of information about the history of yoga, its benefits and step-by-step instructions, with sketches on specific ‘asanas’. Here’s a handy list of top 10 ‘dos’ ‘don’ts’ as prescribed by the ministry’s Yoga Protocol:

  • Keep surroundings, body and mind clean
  • Practice on an empty or light stomach
  • Wear light and comfortable cotton clothes
  • Start practice sessions with a prayer
  • Perform ‘asanas’ slowly
  • Be aware of your body and breathing, hold breath only when specified
  • Always breathe through the nostrils unless specified
  • End yoga session should be with meditation, deep silence
  • Bathe only 20-30 minutes after yoga session
  • Eat only 20-30 minutes after yoga practice

The International Day of Yoga event held at Ahmedabad’s GMDC ground entered the Guinness World Records book with over 54,000 persons, led by Yoga guru Ramdev, participating in it to perform various asanas. Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani received the certificate of the record from the Guinness Book officials at Gandhinagar in the afternoon. The previous record was set in Delhi on June 21, 2015, when 35,985 people performed yoga at Rajpath with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twenty-two other records, such as the maximum number of Surya Namaskars by one person, were also set during this event and certified by the Guinness Book officials.

Yoga is positioned as India’s “gift to the world”, packaged as a means to achieve equality of the mind with the outside world, as well as equality between people. Yoga symbolized the union of humanity and India shares it with the world in an open and inclusive way. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a people’s movement, highlighting that it could be practiced by atheists and believers and focused on how it is inexpensive. At zero budgets, nowhere in the world is one assured of health, but that is what yoga gives you. Even the poorest of the poor can do this at ease and keep themselves healthy.

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