The United Nations founded International Yoga Day to encourage worldwide awareness of the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of yoga, a Hindu discipline. Click here for more information about the UN’s International Yoga Day.
I have to admit. I’m biased. I love yoga!
I discovered yoga when I was in my twenties. After a lifetime of feeling so unathletic, I finally felt strong and coordinated!
So let’s take a look at one of our favorite days here at National Day Ideas!
When is International Yoga Day ?
International Yoga Day is on June 21st!
June 21st, the Summer Solstice, is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere. It is also a day of special significance in yoga.
“The summer solstice is a time of honoring the earth and the sun’s blessing of warmth and light. In Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras 3.26 it’s written in translation, ‘One learns from the perfect discipline of the sun and solar system.'” 
What is International Yoga Day?
On December 11th, 2014, while recognizing the universal appeal of yoga, the United Nations General Assembly set aside June 21st as International Day of Yoga. This day represents the goal of promoting both the physical and mental health benefits of a consistent yoga practice.
The Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, proposed a draft resolution for Yoga Day. The UN endorsed it overwhelmingly. Amazingly, a total of 175 member states signed on, the highest number of member states ever to endorse a resolution!
He said in his address to the UN General Assembly:
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.” 
Today we celebrate International Day of Yoga for the harmony and balance practicing yoga can bring. Yoga is not only good for the body, it is good for the soul.
When and where was the first International Yoga Day?
The very first celebration of International Yoga Day was on June 21st, 2015, at Rajpath in New Delhi. Not only did Narendra Modi lead dignitaries from 84 nations, he also led a total of 35,985 people in a 35 minute yoga session.
During this enormous session, they performed 21 asanas, also known as yoga poses. 
What does the word yoga mean?
The word ‘Yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’ or ‘to yoke’ or ‘to unite’. 
The basic underlying spiritual practice in yoga is a belief in a universal consciousness. Through its practice, one embarks on the pursuit of enlightenment through the union of body and mind and soul.
Fun Ideas for Celebrating International Yoga Day
There are so many ways to celebrate yoga on this day! Here are a few of our favorite Ideas:
- Organize a special outdoor yoga session with your current yoga class, if you have one!
- Invite a friend to go on a weekend yoga retreat with you.
- Buy a fun shirt with a cute, funny or inspirational Yoga message and wear it to class. Better yet, buy 2 and gift one to a friend or to one of your favorite yoga instructors!
- Try a totally different kind of yoga. Take your yoga buddy or teacher out for a healthy, green juice or a yummy fruit smoothie!
A Brief History of Yoga
Yoga has a rich and beautiful history spanning thousands of years. Because the tradition of yoga began mainly through oral teachings passed down from teacher to student, it is hard to pinpoint an exact date when it began. 
Though the tradition possibly dates back as far as 10,000 years ago, the first written collection appeared about 2,000 years ago. The Indian Sage, Patanjali wrote down his philosophy of yoga. His treatise, called the Yoga Sutra, contains over 195 statements that deal with both humanity and its challenges. 
The History of Yoga Has consists of main 4 periods:
Vedic Yoga 4500 – 2500 BC
The first period of yoga is primarily defined by the Vedas, the holy writings of Brahmanism. In fact, the Vedas are the underlying teachings for Hinduism today. They include worship songs that acknowledge a higher power. These songs and their focus on spirituality provide the foundation for the practice of yoga.
In Patanjali’s yoga sutras, he taught the eight limbs of yoga practice, namely – Yama (social ethics), Niyama (personal ethics), Asana (postures), Pranayama (life force), Pratyahara (turning the senses inwards), Dharana (one-pointed focus), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (merging with the self).  As can be seen, the physical part of yoga, the Asanas, are only one facet in the practice of yoga.
Classical Yoga 100 BC – 500 AD
The classical period of yoga is marked by the Upanishads, 200 sacred writings. These writing taught the spiritual tenets of the Brahman, or the highest reality, and the Atman, or the highest self and their relationship to one another. The Upanishads expounded on the Vedas in mostly mystical and monistic terms.
Post-Classical Yoga 500 – 1300 AD
The biggest change in the post-classical area is that the yogis began to teach the importance of embracing reality in order to live in the present. 
Modern Yoga 1700 AD – now
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda made his way to America. He wanted to spread the practice of yoga to the Western world. He traveled to and spoke at the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago, an interfaith conference.
During his travels in the U.S., he opened two branches of his Ramakrishna Mission known as Vedanta Societies. Unfortunately only a few dozen students generally attended. Vivekananda’s teaching were markedly different from the yoga we know today because they did not include any flowing sequences of asanas.
The true rise of yoga as physical exercise, known as Hatha Yoga, is unquestionably thanks to Swami Kuvalayananda (1883-1966). Conversely to Ramakrishna, He chose to introduce yoga and its physical benefits through the lens of medicine and science.
Thanks to the “hippie” revolution in the 1960, yoga became ever more popular. This generation of free thinking people founded organizations all over the United States that further popularized its presence. 
Today, yoga is often practiced solely for its physical benefits. However, there are still some who strive to understand and practice its spiritual aspects as well. This ancient practice has gained so much popularity as of late, you can often find yoga classes at your local YMCA.
The Different Types of Yoga
Kundalini is chiefly focused on the spiritual side. It consists primarily of breathing exercises and includes chanting, mantras and meditation.
The most challenging of yogas, Ashtanga, consists of set sequences of poses and postures which correlate with the breath. In fact, students memorize the sequences and practice together at their own pace.
Vinyasa yoga, often considered the most challenging yoga, is based on movement that is strictly coordinated with the breath. Hence that means the class is a constant flow of poses with no breaks!
The best type of yoga for beginners, Hatha yoga is focused on physical postures and is slower paced than other yogas.
Iyengar yoga is focused on the pose itself. Poses are held for a longer period of time while the student and teacher make minor adjustments to achieve a more perfect form. This consequently allows the body to relax and go deeper into the pose.
Similar to Vinyasa yoga, power yoga is based on breathing but is not as strict. Power yoga is generally more focused on the physical aspects of yoga rather than the spiritual.
Yin yoga, otherwise known as Restorative yoga, is a very slow paced class which is perfect for beginners. In Yin, students hold poses for anywhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. This, as a result, allows gravity to aid the body in going deeper into each pose. By doing this, it helps one to reach and stretch much deeper tissues. This type of yoga, practiced carefully and thoughtfully, can also be helpful to those suffering from chronic pain.
Hot yoga is practiced true to its name, HOT. The room is typically set to 105 degrees and 40% humidity. During a hot yoga class, students go through a series of 26 basic postures which are performed twice. 
The Amazing Benefits of Practicing Yoga
There are an unbelievable number of benefits from practicing yoga. Of course, the physical health aspects are easy to see: strength and flexibility.
But there are significant mental health benefits as well.
Yoga teaches the practice of living in the present, which is very helpful for those suffering from anxiety and stress. 
FAQs About Yoga
Do I have to be really flexible to do yoga?
Absolutely not. In fact, qualified yoga teachers will show you how to modify any pose you need. Yoga should take you to the edge of pain, not cause you pain.
The more you practice, the more flexibility you will gain!
Is Yoga really hard to do?
It undeniably depends on the particular class you choose and what kind of physical shape you are in. Start with a beginner class and see!
As the saying goes, Every Body Can Do Yoga.
How often should I practice Yoga?
Many people practice yoga every day. And since there are so many different types of yoga, you can vary your practice as much as you need.
However, some people prefer to add yoga to their fitness routine. Runners, cyclists, swimmers, weightlifters and group class enthusiasts can all benefit from incorporating yoga into their exercise plans!
Where can I find a Yoga class?
Got to google and search, “Yoga class near me”.
Or you can ask a friend who does yoga.
Be sure to check your local YMCA and see if they offer classes. Our does and they are great!
Can Yoga help me lose weight?
As a part of any fitness and healthy eating plan, yoga can be a part of your weight loss journey.
But practicing yoga will bring so much more to your life. When you focus on living a healthy lifestyle as a whole, you will find yourself growing stronger and healthier everyday.
Noteworthy Stats About Yoga
- Women account for 72% of yoga practitioners. 14 million people doing yoga are over the age of 50.
- Over 40% of people who do yoga feel more motivated to make healthier food choices. 10.
- Nearly 60% of yogis feel that practicing yoga improves their sleep. 8. 85% of yoga users feel the practice helps them to reduce their stress levels. 9.
- They prefer to do yoga in the morning (34%) versus doing it in the evening (18%).
- Educated people are also more likely to do yoga, with research showing that 90% of yogis hold a degree
If you love yoga, be sure to share this post and wish your friends and family Happy International Yoga Day!