Grab Your Mat—The Fourth International Day of Yoga is Here

During 2014, an International Day for Yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly. All told, 177 nations co-sponsored the bill—the highest number of co-sponsors ever for a measure at the UN. That same year, the UN declared June 21 as the day of the observance.

Yoga was invented more than 5,000 years ago in northern India. It didn’t become popular in the U.S. until the first yoga studio was opened in Hollywood in 1947. It seems we’ve been a bit late to the party when it comes to the practice of yoga!

The benefits seem almost endless. Physically, the American Osteopathic Association says yoga can help with:

  • Increasing flexibility
  • Increasing muscle strength and tone
  • Improving respiration, energy, and vitality
  • Maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • Reducing weight
  • Improving cardio and circulatory health
  • Improving athletic performance
  • Protecting from injury

This year’s is the fourth International Day of Yoga. To celebrate the global holiday, Healthy Me PA talked to Dona Jones, a certified trauma-sensitive yoga instructor in Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Veteran Health Program. In her experience, the benefits of yoga reach far beyond the physical.

“Yoga is really about being able to access more of our minds,” Dona said. “We access about 20 percent of it, so there’s all this untouched stuff in there that we don’t always know how to harness. But we can use mindfulness—building awareness—by practices such as just sitting and focusing on our breathing, which is such a vital part of yoga.”

Dona defines yoga as a practice that promotes self-awareness—connecting mind and body.

“In our Western culture, we often think of yoga as the different movements we do, such as warrior pose or tree pose, which is very important because it keeps our bodies healthy,” she said. “But its purpose thousands of years ago was to be able to discipline the body to be relaxed enough to be able to sit in mindfulness and meditation to access more of the mind.

“Ultimately, the whole purpose of doing all of the movements is to have an effect on our brain. And one achieves it whether they are thinking about that or not during yoga, because that’s how it affects the body as a whole.”

Dona said the mental benefits that can be attained through yoga include relieving stress and anxiety, improving depression and mood, encouraging better eating and drinking habits, and helping to manage chronic diseases, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you have areas of your life you’d like to improve, whether physical, emotional, mental, or maybe just that you’d like to be more in tune with yourself and your body, you should give yoga a try. Join people around the world who are participating in the 2018 International Day of Yoga—you don’t have to be able to put your foot behind your head to enjoy all of the benefits yoga has to offer!