In September 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the United Nations during his address, to mark a day recognizing the importance of Yoga. With support from a large number of countries, the UN obliged, and 21st June was decided as the International Day of Yoga. The first International Day of Yoga was observed in 2015, when yoga events were held across the world, with a Guinness World Record created in New Delhi for the largest number of participants in a Yoga event – approximately 37,000 people participated – from schoolchildren to professionals to elderly politicians.
But what made Yoga so popular, and does it really provide the various health benefits that its practitioners claim?
Yoga is a 5000 years old ancient Indian spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health, fitness and relaxation. It was introduced in the West by Swami Vivekananda and Sri Paramhansa Yogananda in the 20th century, from where it spread further across the world.
While the practitioners of yoga have always sworn by its health benefits, detailed scientific studies have been undertaken over the last decade by established educational and medical research institutions, proving that the ancient mind-body technique is indeed an excellent choice for personal wellness and a great fitness routine to follow. Some of these research findings are as follows:
1. Insomnia: A small study yoga practitioners at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found “statistically significant improvements” in all aspects of falling, staying, and awaking from sleep.
2. Blood pressure: Yale School of Medicine found “significantly reduced” systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels in hypertension patients who practiced yoga and meditation
3. Nutrition: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association reported a unique connection between a regular yoga practice and eating healthier. Yoga is believed to increase mindful eating: being aware of why you eat and when to stop
4. Back pain: A study at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that, after practicing yoga for three months, people reported 70% less lower-back pain, and 88% of them reduced or stopped taking pain medication
5. Asthma: The American College of Sports Medicine found a 43% improvement in patients’ symptoms after ten weeks of yoga practice.
6. Depression. In the May issue of Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, researchers found that women experiencing postpartum depression saw a significant improvement in their anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life after just 8 weeks of yoga (twice a week) compared to their counterparts who did not practice yoga.
7. Diabetes: A new study published in the April issue of the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research says that 30 men with Type 2 diabetes who practiced yoga for six months, saw a significant decrease in their blood glucose levels.
There are many more benefits which have been scientifically studied and proven, and even more that are under research. Clearly, Yoga is a winning technique for achieving personal health and wellness. Many Indian spiritual leaders consider it a great nourishment for the body, mind and soul. No wonder that the world has taken to International Day of Yoga so enthusiastically.
International Day of Yoga Events
More than 20,000 people took part in a massive yoga camp headed by famed Indian yoga guru Baba Ramdev on 18th June, 2016 at Dubai World Trade Centre.
In India, more than 100,000 yoga events have been planned across the country on 21st June, with 10 of them being mega events, including one at Chandigarh which bill be graced by the Indian PM Narendra Modi, an enthusiastic practitioner of Yoga himself.
Across the world, from the UK to Canada, South Africa China, Mexico, Australia, Middle East, Latin America and US – the country where Swami Vivekananda first expounded Yoga outside India, events are already planned where hundreds of thousands of people will be stretching and bending into Yoga asanas (postures), perhaps in an expression of gratitude to a practice that has brought better health in their lives.