The UN declared June 21st as International Yoga Day, with the support of 170 nations, after Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modiji’s clarion call to the world community to celebrate Indian yoga at the international level in his speech at the United Nations General Assembly.
In his speech at the UN General Assembly, Shri Modiji had said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of our ancient tradition. Yoga 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."
What is yoga exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely?
Yoga isn't about executing the poses perfectly, or having the best balance. Yoga is connecting with yourself. Yoga is like learning to breath again. Or that moment when you jump out of the bed in the morning, rush outside to do the sun salutation and you're blinded by how utterly brilliant the world can be. Yoga is taking a moment from your stressful, up-beat life and remembering you have a soul that needs tending to.
There is a lot of “Yoga” happening in the world today that has very little to do with what yoga really is. Several myths about this ancient practice have long been masquerading as facts.
Derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
Yoga is a very ancient science; it is thousands of years old. The perceptions derived from its practice form the backbone of the greatness of India, which for centuries has been legendary. The truths espoused in the yoga teachings, however, are not limited to India, nor to those who consciously practice yoga techniques. Many saints of other religions also, including many Christian saints, have discovered aspects of the spiritual path that are intrinsic to the teachings of yoga.
Yoga is not a system of beliefs. It takes into account the influence on each other of body and mind, and brings them into mutual harmony. For instance, the mind cannot concentrate simply because of tension or illness in the body, which prevent the energy from flowing to the brain. So the energy in the body is weakened because the will is dispirited, or paralyzed by harmful emotions.
Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana means also ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, to still the mind and attain higher states of awareness.
The higher teachings of yoga take one beyond techniques, and show the yogi, or yoga practitioner, how to direct his energy in such a way as not only to harmonize human with divine consciousness, but to merge his consciousness in the Infinite.