What is International Yoga Day?
Yoga is an ancient science that originated in India almost 5,000 years ago. It was first mentioned in the sacred texts known as Rig Vedas. The word yoga originates from the word ‘yuj’ that means to ‘unite’ or ‘yoke’. This practice of yoga aims to create harmony between an individual’s physical and mental being with the self and the universe.
What was started and refined by the Rishis, is now popular the world over. Yoga grew in popularity due to the phenomenal health benefits that it awarded to those who practiced it.
The concept and idea of dedicating a day to this transformative practice was first proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi. It was during his speech at the United National General Assembly on 27th September’ 2014, he re-emphasized the role of yoga in bringing harmony between one’s thoughts, actions, and nature and suggested that international yoga day be celebrated.
This suggestion to celebrate yoga day was followed by a draft resolution in the United Nationals General Assembly. This draft received support from 177 member states and global leaders.
The date for celebrating yoga day, also known as Vishwa Yoga Diwas, was proposed as 21st June of each year. The significance of celebrating world yoga day on this date is that this is the longest day in the northern hemisphere. This has a great amount of significance from the point of view of yogic science. It is believed that on this day, Adi Yogi, the first yogi in the history of the world, began delivering the knowledge of yoga to the rest of humanity.
The first international yoga day celebrations took place on 21st June 2015. On this day, almost 36,000 people including the Indian Prime Minister and dignitaries from India and 84 nations performed 21 asanas for almost 35 minutes. This yoga day celebration was held at Rajpath, New Delhi.
Why do we celebrate International Yoga Day?
While this was all about how the thought of celebrating world yoga day germinated and how it became a practice, in reality, it is important to know why yoga deserves such attention and importance.
Let’s take a look at the science-backed benefits of practicing yoga regularly:
- We all live in chaotic worlds with an overload of information, pressure to perform, and challenges. All these factors when combined leave us all stressed and anxious to varying degrees. When stress and anxiety are occasional, can be productive. However, when they become chronic, they can cause serious health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases. Gentle yoga poses decrease the secretion of cortisol, which is the main stress hormone. This significantly reduces stress, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. This not just makes you more productive, but also improves your quality of life and prevents health scares.
- Heart diseases these days have lower age limits and are more rampant as compared to the past. Factors such as obesity, smoking, chronic stress, genetics, age, and gender all contribute to heart problems in people. Yoga has proven to be extremely beneficial in improving your heart health and preventing risk factors. It does so by improving circulation, lowering blood pressure, helping you lose weight, and strengthening & opening up your chest muscles.
- Yoga makes your body stronger and healthier by challenging your muscles and building them to their optimum. This increase in muscular strength leads to better endurance, upper body strength, and weight loss.
- Yoga is an excellent way to stretch and warm up your muscles, joints, and tendons. This has a great impact on your functionality and flexibility. Improved flexibility helps in an extended range of motion, better balance, and more agility, especially for people who are healing or recovering from injuries or surgery. All these together improve your quality of life.
- By working on your muscles and making them more flexible, yoga helps in reducing chronic pains and inflammations. This is especially beneficial for people who suffer from joint pain, stiffness, or swelling due to conditions such as gout, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. This benefit of yoga is also great for people undergoing chemotherapy or other such treatments.
- Yoga is an excellent way to bolster brain health. It has a significant impact on your attention span, impulse control, focus, memory, and concentration. Yoga increases the volume of the frontal cortex and hippocampus, regions that are related to functions such as memory and learning. This also helps in preventing degenerative neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
- Yoga, especially hot yoga, works not just on the strength of your body and brain function but also impacts the appearance of your skin. By reducing stress-induced inflammation, improving sleep, and enhancing circulation to your face and head, yoga makes your skin healthier and glowing. It also reduces the premature signs of aging such as sagging skin, fine lines, crow’s feet, etc.
- One of the most important benefits of yoga is that everyone irrespective of one’s age, gender, or religion can practice it. Yoga poses can be easily customized according to one’s experience of exercise and general state of health.
- Practicing yoga doesn’t require a huge investment in equipment or fancy studio space. It can be included in your routine of home workouts and practically be done everywhere, even in your office in a hotel room!
What were the previous themes of International Yoga Day?
The theme for national yoga day 2020 was ‘yoga at home and yoga with family.
Here are the themes of the previous Vishwa Yoga Diwas:
2015: Yoga for peace and harmony
2016: Yoga for the achievement of the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals)
2017: Yoga for Health
2018: Yoga for Peace
2019: Yoga for Heart
Yoga is one of the few holistic practices in the world that has such a profound impact on one’s mind and body. No wonder this practice receives acceptance from people around the world and deserves to be commemorated through a national yoga day. We encourage everyone to inculcate this beautiful practice into their routine. Just remember to learn the techniques properly through a practitioner or by joining online yoga classes.