Tuesday June 21st, check your diaries, it’s a significant date. Yes, it’s Prince William’s Birthday. Yes, it’s the day that the fifth Harry Potter book was published but more significantly than that, it’s International Yoga Day. An international coming together under a huge yogic umbrella, the worldwide union of lycra and downward dogs. What a thought.
Lycra aside, although International Yoga Day is relatively new (this is the second year it is being celebrated), what is exciting is that it has come in response to yoga as a practice, a philosophy, and a form of exercise; being so widespread across the world, that it has earned a day in the calendar to be celebrated yearly.
Over the last 5000 years yoga has reached countries and communities across the world, in forms that are true to its origin and roots. It has journeyed worldwide to places far away from its birthplace in India, which is a good thing because at its core, yoga encourages us to simply be good people.
Now, bear with me on this but my initial reaction to finding out about International Yoga Day (I.Y.D), was not exactly full of delight. I was genuinely concerned that this could be yet another opportunity for yoga to become a commercial commodity, which could be minced through a money making machine. My initial concerns aside, what is cause for celebration though, is the essence of what the day represents: an opportunity to tune into these celebrations and observe the whole notion of I.Y.D with just the right dosage of curiosity, distance and engagement.
So what is International Yoga Day? Well, it looks like you’ll find an abundance of events, festivals, special classes and workshops dedicated to the promotion of yoga in its vast forms and shapes. As a yoga practitoner, yoga on a widespread level can surely only be a good thing right? So dive in. You may come across some fierce posture practices, where participants will be gracefully moving from one challenging posture to another. You may find yourself sitting in a circle, chanting ancient scripts, or sanskrit blessings, diving into the beauty of sound and rhythm. You may choose to sit quietly, on your own and allow yourself to be guided to discovering the vast universe of shapes, moves and sounds from within.
From experience, the benefits of yoga practice reach further than the better-known positives such as flexibility and strength. On a more spiritual level, I feel it connects us to ourselves by honouring the light that we see, as well as the light that is within us. Getting to know your body and becoming familiar with the breath and notions of the mind, helps us to shed light onto the very nature of our being. If you do it with a drop of mindfulness, it sheds light on the whole business of being human, giving us an opportunity to become, well, good people.
So whatever yoga means to you, may International Yoga Day be an excuse to dust down that tracksuit and join in with the various events that are taking place. Alternatively, you may just want to simply sit quietly in front of a small pit fire (be careful it’s a fire hazard) or a handful of candles and just be. Breathe, exhale and remember that sometimes the quietest of celebrations can bring forth the most unexpectedly beautiful fireworks. No lycra required.