Om’s the Word: Millions Celebrate International Yoga Day, June 21st

It was quite the image to behold this morning in the city of Chandigarh, a union territory located in northern India.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi set out amidst a crowd of more than 30,000 residents – many school children – to take part in a mass yoga session.

International Yoga Day 2016No, it wasn’t a morning wake-up ritual – at least, not in any collaborative sense. It’s International Yoga Day, celebrated all around the world by millions of people, twisting, turning and shifting their bodies into complex positions to the collective tune of “om“.

Yoga is an ancient Indian art developed to nurture the mind, body and spirit. Some believe it was around 600 BCE – about the same time Egyptians favored the deity Osiris, who’s chopped up body had been miraculously restored by his wife, Isis – that yoga spread throughout India. Thus it’s only fitting that PM Modi would lead the charge to celebrate the second anniversary of the global holiday.

“With zero budget, yoga provides health assurance and it does not discriminate between rich and poor,” Modi expressed to the mass crowd, encouraging one and all – regardless of standing in society – to make yoga a part of their daily lives and health regimes.

All across India, from cities and towns to small villages, similar gatherings took place.

International Yoga Day was the brainchild of the United Nations, who – with support from 177 nations – proclaimed the holiday last year. At the United Nations headquarters in New York City this morning, various yoga positions were displayed across the side of the building as the international peace-keeping league highlighted the significant role yoga has played in accomplishing sustainable goals throughout history.

Jaggi Vasudev, SadhguruJaggi Vasudev, better known as Sadhguru, a yoga master and the founder of the non-profit Isha Foundation that promotes yoga worldwide, will host a demonstration and musical incantation outside the U.N. headquarters today.

“We must understand that yoga is not an Indian (thing),” said Sadhguru on Monday. “If you want to call yoga Indian, then you must call gravity European.”

Yoga is “not about you versus me,” he continued. “This is why I said yoga is not Indian because a science cannot be Indian. Yes, yoga originated from India and as Indians we are proud of it but it does not belong to India. The very fact that the U.N. has declared it International Yoga Day means India has gifted it to the world. It does not belong to India anymore.”

Purpose and Forms of Yoga

Yoga practitioners around the globe uphold the popular belief that it is the most beneficial form of exercise, not just for the body, but calming the mind and soothing the soul. It’s been described as a ‘rising and expansion of consciousness‘, a ‘path to omniscience‘, and a technique to further the ‘attainment of supernatural accomplishments‘ (Professor David Gordon White, University of Chicago Divinity School).

The term ‘Yoga’ doesn’t apply to a single method. It is a far-reaching expression used to describe multiple practices and techniques, each with their own practical purpose.

In Hinduism, yoga can refer to the philosophical form of Classical Yoga, as well as Hatha Yoga, a method of physical and mental strength building.

In Buddhism, yoga is a meditative technique used to develop concentration, insight, mindfulness, supramundane powers and tranquility. In Jainism, yoga takes on a more spiritual role in the daily lives of its practitioners.

Yoga is also seen as a form of modern medicine, with specific postures meant to alleviate physical ailments and reduce stress. It is often incorporated as a means of physical therapy. In the west, it’s most common uses are related to exercise and fitness.

 

Whatever your reason, if you’ve never tried yoga, today is the perfect day to find out what it’s all about and see whether yoga deserves a place in your life.

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