On June 21, the world observed International Day of Yoga, a celebration of the unity between an enlightened spirit and a healthy body. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for adoption of the Day at the UN General Assembly in 2014.
Though formal and informal groups of yoga teachers and enthusiasts celebrated the Day on various other dates, the UN officially declared June 21 as International Day of Yoga accepting the proposal of Modi during his address at the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014, wherein he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5000 years old. 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 about discovering the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change.”Popularising yoga becomes essential at this stage because human life has been completely taken over by materialism. Today, a ‘bhogi’ lifestyle that thrives on rapid consumption and greed, and pursues pleasure and power, had become the natural way to be. Such has been the race to accumulate resource that we have broken natural laws and trespassed all the boundaries. We can see the climax of it all in the form of deteriorating public health, global warming, massive arms sales, corruption and unprecedented rise in sexual violence.
Our present day predicament is rooted in the adulteration of our inner world and prioritising of matter over mind. The solution lies in reversing this trend and adopting a yogi lifestyle, which is based on ancient wisdom and a holistic worldview.
Yoga means Union – that of the soul and the Supreme Soul, spirit and matter, thought and action, man and nature. A yogi lifestyle implies discipline, commitment, character building, the art of giving and co-existence. It is a value-based approach that is founded on respect for the self, others and the natural world.
In the present age most people are leading a ‘bhogi’ life. A ‘bhogi’ chases happiness in possessions, roles, status and all outer achievements that gratify his sense of ‘I’ and mine. He engages himself endlessly in competing for space, position and material resources. His actions gradually entangle him in a web of greed, ego and attachment. A ‘bhogi’ ultimately becomes a ‘rogi’ – physically, mentally, morally and spiritually unhealthy.A yogi enjoys health, commitment and happiness because he is not a ‘bhogi’ who lusts for more. As he is not ruled by his desires, he is able to keep diseases at bay.
The ‘bhogi’ lifestyle is consumption-driven. It measures man with power, so it goes against our spiritual progress. The yogi lifestyle, on the other hand, places spirit over body. It is all about adding value to our existence, putting to best use of our gifts and talents, and binding us together as one family.
The yogi lifestyle is generally perceived as dry and difficult, one that may involve renunciation, toil and restraint. On the contrary, it is one where we make our onward journey much easier by making the right choices.
By renouncing that which is not useful or goes against our innate purity, we save ourselves from being trapped by our own choices. As our being becomes free from the negative dictates of its physical and subtle faculties, there is experience of inner freedom and the unleashing of latent creativity. We become aligned with universal laws and so do not have to chase health and happiness, but experience them naturally.
The Day attempts such a harmonious way of living so that our world could be significantly impacted in more ways than one. Observing this Day once a year is good to spread awareness and initiate people into a new lifestyle. It is meant to draw attention to something important that was lost over time. However, we should not be content with this.
The Day is not just about exercising for a day, but should serve as the beginning of a bigger change. It should inspire a way of life that stays with us forever. Our aim must be to tap into the full potential of yoga and make significant difference within and outside.
Yoga is a spiritual science that must be promoted in places of learning, work, retreat and rest. It can also be added to streams such as medicine and art. But most importantly, it should become an integral part of our culture. On the Day, let’s keep this broader vision in front of us and together work towards it all through the year and continue thereafter.
The most popular concepts about yoga are asanas, physical stretches, breathing exercises and techniques to relax and focus the mind. There are various types of yoga – Hatha Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Raja Yoga (Pantanjali), Kundalini Yoga, Sankhya Yoga, Tattwa Yoga and many others.
Today yoga is practiced mostly to attain physical fitness, stamina and weight-loss. But yoga as a holistic practice was seen as a tool to facilitate inner peace, self-realization and mental purification. Yoga isn’t just exercise, it’s a state of mind. All over the world, those who consider yoga to a set of bodily and breathing exercises aiming at body-mind well-being are more than the number of people who consider yoga to be a spiritual journey.
The health benefits of yoga are manifold. However, all the systems of yoga mentioned above involve physical stretches, postures, bending and flexing of the body, which cannot be practiced regularly by the elderly, ill and those with physical challenges. To be of benefit, it requires plenty of time and motivation to practice regularly.
The ‘yoga’ is derived from Sanskrit term ‘yuj’, which means to connect. Yoga is a communion of the human soul with the Supreme Soul. Such a spiritual union empowers a human to overcome lust, anger and ego and live a virtuous life with spiritual awareness and compassion.
Health is not just absence of disease but a state of wellness in which a person enjoys physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Most diseases today are psychosomatic, caused by negative emotions. The negative ‘sanskars’ of the soul adversely influence the individual’s attitude, outlook, dietary habits, relationship and behaviour. As a consequence, norms of physical and mental health are violated. When the body’s tolerance limit is crossed by repeated violations, disease sets in.
Yoga is way of life. It involves positive thinking, spiritual study, healthy relationships, silent meditation and selfless services. A yogi lifestyle does not mean renunciation or shedding family responsibilities. A yogi maintains his mental equilibrium even in adverse situations. He is naturally free from addictions and unhealthy habits. A yogi celebrates the spirit of life through a very deep and authentic spiritual connection with others.
The basis of Raja Yoga is soul-consciousness, which means considering one’s true self as an immortal soul having and eternal relationship with the Supreme Soul.
Meditation is easy to practice. Everyone in a family, including the elders and children, can practice it. The aim of this union with the Supreme is to become like Him in His qualities. As souls we have attributes similar to those of God.
The writer is Director, Holistic Health Care Centre