Let's yoga on International Day of Yoga 2021Monday, June 21, 2021
It is that time of the year when the world celebrates the ancient Indian wellness technique of yoga and its benefits to humankind.
Falling on June 21 every year, more than 177 countries, including Jamaica, co-sponsored the United Nations resolution for observing the International Day of Yoga in 2014. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his UN address, had suggested the date as it was the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere and shared a special significance in many parts of the world.
From the yogic perspective, this time is the transition period; that is a good time for meditation. The UN resolution noted, among other things, “the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health”.
To the unverse, the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word that means to join or to unite. In common parlance, it is understood as an ancient physical, mental, and spiritual practice that gives calmness, peace, confidence, and strengthens muscles to relieve stress. While improvement of health is a natural consequence of yoga, its goals are far-reaching. It is the technology of aligning oneself with the universe to achieve the highest level of awareness and harmony.
According to the Harvard Medical School, studies have found that yoga develops inner awareness, as well as the strength of mind and body. According to the medical school, studies show that yoga leads to weight loss, lowers blood pressure, improves lipid profiles, lowers excessive blood sugar levels, and can also help with depression, arthritis, and improve survival from cancer.
With regard its genesis, yoga is believed to have originated in India around 3000 BCE, although it developed as a systematic study around the fifth century BCE. Sage Patanjali's expositions on yoga in the second century BCE make him the most revered name in the yoga tradition. Since then, yoga has remained an integral part of the Indian lifestyle and an important component of Indian culture and civilisation.
Many confuse the practice of yoga with religion. Georg Feuerstein, internationally known for his interpretative studies of the yoga tradition, says, “Yoga aids all who practise religion, regardless of their persuasion, by balancing the nervous system and stilling the mind through its various exercises.”
Yoga does not adhere to any religion, belief system, or community. It is simply a technique for inner well-being. Anyone can reap its benefits, irrespective of faith, ethnicity, or culture.
According to Caroline McCarter, the author of Yoga Life: “The practices of yoga, when correctly taught, will help anyone of any religious tradition deepen their faith. It is often said that the practice of yoga can make a Christian a better Christian, a Muslim a better Muslim, and a Buddhist a better Buddhist.”
Yoga and COVID-19
Yoga is recognised as a complementary technique to allopathic medicine for treating COVID-19 symptoms. It has been found especially useful for treating post-COVID-19 disorders, both physical and mental, and expediting recovery. According to a study by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, yoga practitioners had lower stress, anxiety and depression, higher well-being, and higher peace of mind during four to 10 weeks of COVID-19 lockdown in 2020, as compared to the non-practitioners.
Although yoga was first introduced to the West in the late 19th century, the practice has become very popular in a short period. After the mid-20th century mass boom, millions of people from all over the world made it a part of their daily routine. Yoga also underwent many modifications, and different yoga styles and schools have blossomed. These include Restorative Yoga, Ashtanga Yoga, Power Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Yin Yoga, to name a few. What all of them have in common is the achievement of mind-body balance which is the foundation of all yoga practices across the globe.
The practice of yoga is not alien to Jamaica. There are many yoga studios as well as independent yoga teachers who teach yoga in the country. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, many such teachers are conducting online classes for the learners.
This yoga season, the high commission of India has also partnered with many such instructors to conduct small yoga sessions for enthusiasts from different walks of life. The yoga instructors include Stuart Maxwell, Kelisse Kelly, Ina Daley, Tina Kirkpatrick, Sister Rani, Kiran Chatani, Priyanka Mishra, and Ganga Wardhani. The sessions were curated for the Jamaica Defence Force Cadets, students, young kids, diplomatic corps, etc.
The stresses and strains of present-day life make doing yoga a must to produce balance and order. But yogic practice has more to offer than physical and mental well-being, as it brings unity of body and soul, man and nature. This uniting effect is needed in today's divisive world in which there is no consensus on combating poverty and climate change, distributing COVID-19 vaccines, etc.
In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B K S Iyengar, “Yoga does not just change the way we see things. It transforms the person who sees.”
Rungsung Masakui is the high commissioner of India to Jamaica. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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