Today is the Summer solstice, the longest day of the year. The celebration of that fact is why it is also International Yoga Day — after all, there’s no better day to recenter, pay attention to your surroundings, and find balance in the new season.
Yoga is an ancient practice which aims to unite mind and body, help maintain balance and flexibility, and give space for mindful reflection.
The physical element of yoga often involves slow stretches and poses which are maintained to build flexibility and strength in all parts of the body. This practice can be done without direct acknowledgement of the spiritual side, and many people use yoga as a form of exercise.
Yoga is, in the words of Indian Prime Minister Nerendra Modi, a holistic approach to wellbeing which is “not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature.”
At the very least, many physical yoga poses and routines encourage meditation. The slow, breath-centered nature of the practice force the body to keep pace, focusing only on the here and now.
Here are a few ways you can celebrate International Yoga Day, and get in touch with this timeless outlook.
Notice Your Body
In a fast-paced world, it’s good to remind yourself that the present is right where you are. Notice your stance and your posture in order to find groundedness. Notice your breathing — practice breathing deeper and with intention. Yoga teaches that the body and the mind are connected, so to find peace of mind, it is also important to be connected to the physical.
Take Care of Your Body
It is important to care for your body’s needs. This means eating well and eating enough. It means drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially while exercising and when the weather is getting warmer. It also means moving your body — whether you have the time to go for a run, do an hour-long yoga routine, or just stretch in the morning and do a lap around the neighborhood. In the same way that it is important to notice and appreciate your physical form, it’s important to make yourself feel comfortable and satisfied in any ways you can.
Engage with the beauty in the world
Part of the practice of living in the moment is to see all the beauty and good that occupies our space. When you’re taking that ten-minute walk, make note of whatever you find beautiful. The formations of clouds in the sky, the murals on buildings nearby, the joy of a mother and son playing catch in the yard. It is vital to notice the things about the world that we want to change, but yoga stresses balance, and in the unity of the world it is important not to be bogged down.
Yoga involves mindfulness and the feeling of connection with the world, and the physical practice embodies all of this. There are several physical yoga studios in town, as well as community yoga classes which can offer a wonderful sense of community and care. There are also many free instructional videos online, from the very simple to the very complex. Yoga can be a great practice for anyone, and online videos offer the opportunity for people who understand any necessity to teach yoga, like basic yoga, plus size yoga, or yoga for amputees.
So get down onto the mat and give your life a stretch in honor of Yoga Day.