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Millions of People Will Participate in This Year’s International Day of Yoga: Here’s Everything You Need to Know

Yoga continues to rise in popularity across the world. From a growing number of studio businesses to virtual classes and instructional videos, participation in the practice sees no signs of slowing. In fact, did you know there’s even an international holiday in observation of yoga? Friday, June 21 will mark the 10th International Day of Yoga! Officially recognized in 2014 by the United Nations, the celebration is meant to bring people around the world together to become immersed in the benefits of mind-body connection.

The history of yoga and its international holiday

Despite more recent trends, yoga is an ancient practice which originated in India centuries ago. It is a physical, mental and spiritual practice, and the word yoga is derived from Sanskrit meaning to join or to unite. Across the myriad types of yoga practice, the overarching goal is to unify the body and consciousness.

According to the UN, the International Day of Yoga aims to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga. This year’s theme is “yoga for self and society.”

“Yoga, a transformative practice, represents the harmony of mind and body, the balance between thought and action, and the unity of restraint and fulfillment,” notes the organization. “It integrates the body, mind, spirit, and soul, offering a holistic approach to health and well-being that brings peace to our hectic lives. Its power to transform is what we celebrate on this special day.”

The holiday was first proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who explained that yoga is a valuable practice rooted in ancient tradition which embodies unity of thought and action. It is a holistic approach to health and well-being, he said, designed to help participants not only exercise, but discover a sense of self, the world and nature.

In the official resolution, the UN noted the importance of people making healthier choices and following lifestyle patterns that foster good health, and that the long-term objective of global health can only be achieved through collaboration between many nations.

“But yoga is more than a physical activity,” the UN states. “In the words of one of its most famous practitioners, the late B. K. S. Iyengar, ‘Yoga cultivates the ways of maintaining a balanced attitude in day-to-day life and endows skill in the performance of one’s actions.’”

How can you celebrate International Day of Yoga?

Looking to join in on the fun? A quick search for International Day of Yoga events in your area should bring up a plethora of fun opportunities for you to go out, learn and be involved in the community. You can even watch the massive UN event in New York City from home! Try popping into a local yoga studio and taking a class. Alternatively, you can peruse the countless videos and apps that offer virtual yoga lessons, and follow along in your home, outdoors, by yourself or with a group of friends! For example, join the more than 500 million people who have watched this video offering basic yoga asanas for good health for beginners and all ages.

The benefits of yoga

While the yoga community shares an appreciation for the practice, everybody is different in terms of exactly what they gain from yoga and how they fit it into their routine. There are some people who dedicate their careers to yoga, others who practice regularly and those who like to squeeze it in when they can. There are also many different types of yoga with varying nuances and purposes. The main commonality amongst people with a range of experience levels and unique lifestyle goals is that they all gain something deeply meaningful and personal from yoga.

Mental and emotional

“Yoga is a beautiful practice because it flows in the same rhythm as a healthy nervous system,” explains Jenny Flora Wells, a licensed social worker and holistic therapist in California. “It follows a gentle arrival at the beginning, bringing you to a peak pose in the middle, and slowly bringing you back to a state of relaxation and reflection as it comes to a close. We live in a fast-paced and dysregulating world where it is easy to get ‘stuck’ in the survival states of fight, flight, or freeze. Providing space for ourselves to show up for a daily or even weekly yoga practice helps bring our nervous system and body back into balance.”

Additionally, Wells says, yoga teaches us many lessons that can be applied to countless aspects of our lives. Some examples include sitting in a pose that feels challenging or uncomfortable and observing what kind of feelings and reactions emerge from that experience, or being mindful and reflective while holding a posture and noticing the physical and emotional release that stillness can bring, Wells says.

Taryn Lagonigro, yoga and meditation instructor at Iris Yoga in New Jersey, discovered the value of yoga while fighting mental illness.

“I truly leaned into yoga after going through an intense bout of anxiety and depression after becoming a mom of two,” Lagonigro shares. “I found that yoga was the one place where my mind was quiet and where I reconnected with my physical body. Now a mom of four, I am so grateful for this practice as it’s truly the place where I come back to who I am, not as a mom, not as a wife, not as a career person, but just ME.”

Physical benefits of yoga

Women stretching and smiling during yoga class

1. Yoga can improve strength, stability and flexibility

The many stretching motions and holding different poses during yoga is said to assist with elongating and building muscle strength, increasing range of motion and enhancing bone density.

2. Yoga can help ease pain

A recent study in the Journal of Orthopaedic Research found women with chronic back pain who practiced yoga regularly cut pain scores by 51% in four weeks. Yoga was also one of the recommended exercises to help reduce chronic back pain as a first line of defense before any drug-based treatments by the American College of Physicians.

3. Yoga can aid in decreased cardiovascular risks

High cholesterol is one of the risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine found women who practiced yoga three times a week for 26 weeks had marked decreases in cholesterol (including potentially dangerous LDL).

Keep reading for more yoga benefits!

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