INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY TURNS TWO
One of the first things that Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, did on attaining office in May of 2014 was to prepare the groundwork for inclusion of yoga as an official practice around the world. On December 11, 2014, a draft resolution was introduced in the UN, co-signed by 175 countries, the highest number of co-sponsors for any resolution of such nature.
So June 21 was chosen as the International Yoga Day, because it’s the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere (while being the shortest in the Southern hemisphere). In the Indian calendar, the summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana on the way to the first full moon night, Guru Poornima.
On the first Yoga Day in 2015, Narendra Modi led a congregation of 36000 people – many among them foreign dignitaries from 84 nations – performed twenty one asanas for 35 minutes in Rajpath, New Delhi. This entered the Guinness World Records for both the ‘largest yoga class in history’ and also for the largest number of participating nations.
Now, on the occasion of the second International Yoga Day, that passed us on June 21, 2016, it is time to ask yourself: do you practice yoga on a daily basis?
I must confess that I’ve been a late convert to yoga. Until a couple of months ago, I gave the usual excuses. I don’t believe in the spiritual aspect of the practice. It’s no more than a collection of stretching and breathing exercises, I said. I told everyone who’d listen how I don’t have time for it, how I’d been out of touch with exercise for years and why I should ease myself into it.
Well, need I stress that all my excuses were lame ones? Now, two months on after doing my first yoga asana, I look forward to spending time with my mat (on my mat?) every morning, at the crack of dawn on my balcony, surrounded by birdsong. For an outside observer it may look like I’m not doing much – yoga is deceptive that way, especially hatha yoga – but my muscles and inner being always seem to feel more refreshed after practice.
There is something to be said for the spiritual aid of yoga, too. Because you tend to focus on your breathing in almost all the asanas, and because the aim of every pose is to hold balance and poise, it is almost impossible not to draw parallels – balance of body to balance of mind, physical silence to mental focus and attention.
The philosophy of yoga also stresses on the importance of not competing in your practice with anyone. You take your own time. You begin at your beginning. You stretch at your own pace. You reconnect with that inner rhythm and fall in sync with it. In any pose, it is not necessary to push yourself, but to pace yourself at the edge of your comfort zone, and maintain stillness – in body, mind and spirit.
Once again the parallels are clear to see. We live life in ostensible competition with others, but in truth, we must run our own race, and find happiness in the journey that we do make, not the one that we think we should be making.
I find, therefore, that the more I practice yoga, the better I feel not only physically but also mentally. I am calmer. I am more contented. I find that I smile more.
So go ahead, try it. You may just find that it will change your life for the better.