The UN membership has declared yoga to be such a fundamental part of societies around the world that on December 11, 2014, it declared June 21st as the internationally renowned day of practice. This past Tuesday marked the 2nd annual International Day of Yoga. Not that yoga needed the validation, let’s face it this practice has been around for thousands of years, but to have “a record 175 member states” vote to make this an official day feels pretty good.
Throughout its history, yoga has been developed and reworked to meet the needs of populations, for instance, the first practices only minimally touched on asana (posture). In fact, the original practice was largely centered around meditation and breath work (pranayama), what little was done for the physical body was done in preparation for these more subtle aspects. But, as traditions and civilizations began to change so too did the world’s yoga practice. Today, according to the 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by the Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance, there are 36.7M yoga practitioners in the United States alone practicing different yoga formats and aspects of yoga.
Peak into a studio and you might see a dozen or more yogis practicing Vinyasa, an athletic, intention and breath-based format, or Yin, a seated practice which focuses on passive posture allowing gravity to slowly open up the practitioner’s body. What’s more is that there are growing populations of kiddo yogis with eyes closed chanting (often giggling) their way through a series of Aum (Om).
In addition to the vast age differences of yogis, both in and out of studio, there are yogis with a varying array of body shapes and sizes, from a wide range of cultures, ethnicities, religions, and individuals with gender- and sexual-identity differences. Yoga in its truest form is a place where all people are welcome. In his address to the United Nations, when petitioning for this International Day of Yoga, Hon’ble Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
Yoga means union: the union within yourself, the union to each other, and the union to our world. Take time today to become a part of this growing community, this union of yogis and in 362-days you’ll be ready to celebrate the third annual International Day of Yoga and in the meantime you’ll find that “holistic approach to health and well-being.”