We are back with yet another international day. Where do I get these from? Actually, they are official! The United Nations, under their motto “peace, dignity and equality on a healthy planet“, declares international days to give room to and create awareness on matters of general interest, such as the protection of human rights, sustainable development or health.
As you may already know, travel, sports and health are subjects that greatly interest me, and I enjoy writing and sharing about experiences that mark my everyday life and my life of travel. I recently published an article on superheroes (that I think you should read, and invite you to do so!), and today, 21st of June, we celebrate a new interesting day:
Happy international day of yoga!
I find it somehow funny that I remember getting really bored during some yoga classes I took about ten years ago in some gym. And for that reason I was really surprised when I got hooked on yoga during quarantine… I could not stop learning, meditating and practicing! Perhaps at this point in my life I was really prepared to receive all the wisdom that this discipline entails, in such a holistic way.
Physical activity needs to keep happening! (I said to myself) So I surpassed the acquaintance status with the building stairs and paid my daily visits to the rooftop for training sessions and dancing under Mister Big-vitamin-D. Back on my computer, I randomly found a yogi girl who was offering short yoga guided lessons via youtube. I was curious. A few of my dearest friends told me how they practice it everyday, and I liked the way this online yogi talked in her videos: natural, with a smooth voice, without forcing or big ambitions for the newbies… just flowing. It was just a great way to connect with my own body, breathing and movement (just like freediving!), disconnecting from the frustrations and impotence of the lockdown situation, letting go, and becoming grateful and appreciative of the now and what I am and do have.
I honestly cannot remember when it was that I first practiced yoga. Maybe it was when I was about five and started practicing rhythm gymnastics for so many years… the warm-ups and the stretches are so similar! It could have been before or after that. Perhaps that gym class, in high school or at university, or when I was training for my freediving competition! There was so much focus and attention on the body and breathing… I definitely recall studying and practicing while being the head of the PE department in a high school and preparing my student Lea for her GCSEs in yoga… It could have also been in the last few years, with my workmates during some of our fun free time. Actually, I could have also practiced without even knowing that yoga was the name of what I was doing! So when does one really start?
I guess since the beginning. Who more is in the here and now than a baby?Anni Taskula
So this makes me think. I don’t know even half of what there is to know about it.
An idea popped up
Who can tell best how yoga is lived but people who do it or have it as a lifestyle?
I decided to interview a handful of beautiful people who I know and/or have served me as inspiration. Men and women from different backgrounds have dedicated some of their precious time to bring you, dear readers, a perspective on yoga that you won’t find in the books or navigating the Internet.
So what is yoga?
Yoga is more than a physical activity that comes from India: it is also mental and spiritual practice. That’s why it is an amazing practice for mindfulness! The actual word yoga means unity, as it symbolizes the union of mind and matter.
Yoga is the ultimate practice for connection with our minds, bodies, and spirits.Patrick McConnell
Yoga to me is a philosophy about unity; unity within myself, unity with the physical and energetic surrounding, unity through people – collective awareness and universal knowledge.Anni Taskula
Yoga is a practice that makes me feel good and at peace with me and the world.Ricardo Ramos
Yoga for me is recovery, healing, freshening, strengthening; exercise for the body and mind.Matt Richardson
Yoga is everything: How you live your life, how you treat other people, how you treat yourself, etc. It’s a mindset that everything comes out of.Nuša Molek
Yoga is my philosophy of life.Yassy MM
A tool for taking care of the body and soulJan J
Yoga is a way of connection between my body, mind and soul.Julieta Virgili
Yoga for me is a constant journey of learning more about how to live life in balance and harmony to create happiness within and with others. It’s a way for me to connect with myself and remind myself what is important in life and what makes me truly happy. Practicing yoga will never end for me, it doesn’t stop when I step off the mat as it is so much more than just the asana movements that a lot of people in the west associate yoga with.Cat Butterfield
Yoga holds such significance that in December 2014, the United Nations recognized not only its universal popularity, but also the need to create awareness about its great benefits, emphasizing the importance of individuals and populations making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health. So the international day of yoga was created, to share the advantages of this practice, for the benefits and wellness of the worldwide population.
Yoga practice generates this feeling of deep awareness of oneself and the energy one feels, through mind and body alignment, reconnecting within to then connect with the outside. Here are some of the benefits that my interviewees and myself thought of:
- Physical benefits
- Lung expansion
- Body posture
- Limbering the body up for the day
- Feeling the tension in one’s body which one may not have realized before
- Helping to slow down
- Helping with breathing patterns
- It is a non-invasive practice (UNICEF affirms that children can also practice any yoga posture without any threat or risks, and obtain the same benefits as an adult)
- Mental/ emotional benefits
- Focus and concentration
- Better sleep
- Better ability to meditate
- Better ability to control negative thought patterns
- Reducing stress
- Increasing relaxation and feeling at peace
- Increasing optimism
- Awareness of the present moment, helping being in the here and now
- Freeing oneself from the ego’s control over the mind
- Engaging self-awareness and the experience of being
- Relations benefits
- Providing new ways of looking at life
- Increasing appreciation towards life and all living things
- Increasing humbleness
The yoga practice
Most of us, from the newbie who started months ago in 2020 to the experienced one of eleven years on the yoga road, do practice “physical yoga” from ten to thirty minutes three times a week, to every single day. On top of that, even when the physical part of yoga is not present, the yoga lifestyle mode is still on. It has been really interesting for me to read affirmations from whom I would call “the big yogis” stating “I am hooked on its philosophy of life, but I don’t do much practice” (said Yassy), or “sometimes I do asanas (yoga positions) daily, sometimes I don’t do them for a month“. A month without doing physical yoga? Indeed.
At least half of the participants made statements on practicing yoga everyday, yet not doing the physical part.
It’s hard to quantify this answer as yoga should and can be practiced all the time wherever you are. Any activity or practice that brings you into the present moment, where you are conscious of your breath and of your body, is yoga.Cat Butterfield
I do sometimes practice it, and sometimes I just live it or experience it. It’s very important for me to keep in mind that yoga is not physical practice (asanas) alone, but a life philosophy that you can practice/ live through every moment of your life, basically in anything that you do.Anni Taskula
I love yoga and practice it in everything I do. Physically, it goes in waves. Either I’m practicing daily, or focusing on other facets of my movement practice. Emotionally and spiritually, I’m practicing every moment I can.Patrick McConnell
What about the physical part?
I love it when I sit on my simple version of the lotus position, put my hands on my knees facing up, close my eyes, and start breathing. In that moment, I feel loving, caring, positive, dedicated, disciplined, committed to myself, my peace, my well-being, for balance and harmony. That me-time for self-love and personal growth needs to be contagious!
Warm-up starts, twist here, downward facing dog there, stretches of the back, and I feel focused and challenged, appreciative and attentive; I’m listening and feeling, I am playful and silly and free.
When the body wakes-up, the soul can express itself better, the body regenerates and heals itself through the practice.
I personally love the asanas in which I work a lot on balance, picking myself up in strange ways; and on flexibility, which may hold a nostalgic factor, checking how much muscle memory my body actually has!
I love the fact that many of my interviewees, male and female, love inversions and consider it SO fun to be upside-down! “And that inverted perspective is always a treat!” – It may be a common factor that we all love challenges!
Is yoga for everybody?
“Everyone could use more mindfulness and connection with their bodies. The beautiful thing about yoga is that there are infinite ways to practice it and experience its benefits“. Yoga has been recommended by everyone and for everyone, as it is a personal journey, unique to each individual. “All you need is a body and a mind!” (said Cat), and be open-minded and not overwhelmed.
Especially after quarantine, yoga has become quite trendy, and lots of people have started to practice it just because it is fashionable. This can result in mixed spiritual messages, having yoga being stamped falsely through that image, risking the lack of a clean technique and even leading to physical injury if not done properly.
I hope (…) people get to know the real yoga, which is a relation between asanas, pranayamas, meditation with a philosophy of life. Yoga is a strong concept that involves a lot, not just stretching the body.Julieta Virgili
(people have) more time to do so and less external distractions. Also people are becoming more aware of how we can heal our bodies and our minds without drugs.Cat Butterfield
It is good that more people are getting interested in yoga, and it is not just something ‘hippies’ do.Nuša Molek
So people who know this practice, recommend trying different teachers, starting progressively, small and consistent, doing basic asanas to get the body movement slowly, not giving up after the first thought of aversion, exploring what yoga has to offer, not just the asanas. Finding one’s individual hook. “Even if you don’t feel like doing a physical practice, yoga is also meditation, breathing exercises or a form of devotional or karma yoga“.
Each person has their own timing to initiate practice, and to decide how far they’ll go. It does me good, and I have seen impressive progress and changes in others. I would recommend others to start practicing from the base, from the very beginnings.Yassy
Before wrapping up, I would love to share some of my dearest yogi’s life-changing experiences through yoga. Enjoy the stories!
I think the best experience was at my yoga teacher training. We were doing a dynamic Osho meditation as a group. It was just a great mix of connection, feeling of unity, yet still keeping the focus inward and to your feelings. It really brought me into the present moment, and I could feel just joy and oneness.Nuša Molek
So many good experiences, especially when starting to understand certain aspects of myself which manifested through emotions such as anger. I learnt how to handle those situations and how to be more empathetic towards others. I’ve met wonderful people who have come with unforgettable learnings. Amazing retreats!Yassy
I spent a year walking everywhere in flip-flops until one day my arches fell. I went to podiatrists all over the world looking for relief, but it wasn’t until I went to a chiropractor that I found relief – he gave me some “exercises” to do, and in a very short time I was able to walk without pain again. Ever since then I’ve been a believer!Matt Richardson
Once I was meditating at home underneath an apple tree. It was still cold, so I had some blankets and thick layers of clothes around me. I must have fallen asleep while meditating, cause I woke up when my mum was poking me with a broom, thinking I was a homeless person who passed out in their yard. It was such a funny moment for both of us to realize that underneath the blankets was a lesson for life. Never judge a random pile of blankets by the way they look!Anni Taskula
After finishing work, tired and having worn high heels, I knew I had yoga lessons. One and a half hour of disconnecting from the outside to focus on myself, feeling my body stretching with each breath, the challenges of some asanas, the soft music and meditation… I went home extra relaxed.Julieta Virgili
Yoga teacher training was definitely a life changing experience. I learned a lot about myself and knew I wanted to become a yoga teacher.Kassandra Reinhardt
I seriously attribute the majority of my personal growth to yoga. Most recently, I won a 300 hour teacher training in Bali and was the only male in my group of 15 women. Spending so much quality time with so many beautifully embodied and badass women was one of the most incredible and fortunate experiences of my life.Patrick McConnell
After a month of practicing yoga, my posture got better.Ricardo Ramos
I used to have bad posture and minor scoliosis which caused my upper right back to hurt a lot. I joined a yoga class after a friend recommended it… and over time I noticed my back didn’t hurt anymore and I didn’t have an uneven back when I bent down!Jan
A big thank you to all of you, my dearest collaborators for choosing to dedicate some of your precious time to help me create awareness about the beautiful discipline of yoga on this special day. Ricardo, Cat, Anni, Nuša, Julieta, Matt, Patrick, Kassandra, Yassy and Janice: THANK YOU.
I leave you with some gratitude and a few more great quotes. Peace in! Namaste.
Yoga rules! It has allowed me to feel so much more deeply and listen to even the slightest requests from my body. I am happier, healthier, and more in love with life than ever before. And the journey that led me here began with a Bikram yoga class my friends dragged me to despite me thinking yoga was lame, and not for guys like me. How wrong I was 😀Patrick McConnell
I doubt there would be a single war if our current leaders would all practice yoga.Anni Taskula
Did you enjoy this article? Feel free to share it and invite your friends and family to celebrate yoga day with you! Have a beautiful and happy day!