June 21, 2015 marks the first ever International Day of Yoga, formally recognized by the United Nations. The day has been devoted to this ancient discipline, to highlight the benefits of yoga “for the health of the world population”.
Today, Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, did yoga with a crowd of over 35,000 in Delhi, and yoga events are being held in 251 cities on 6 continents.
I’ve read that 30,000 yogis and yoginis are set to do yoga asanas today in Times Square, NYC. That’s a lot of OMing, breathing and Downward Dogging!
Yoga may be an ancient tradition (over 5,000 years old), but it’s also gone through many evolutions and changes, especially when it hit the West. I sometimes think (or hope) that Patanjali must be chuckling to himself about the myriad of yoga styles that exist today — hot yoga, aerial yoga, chair yoga, ball yoga, acro yoga, gay naked yoga, aqua yoga — there’s something for everyone.
Although all the yoga flavors and trends out there are not necessarily for me, I choose to see them as just another form of getting touch with body, mind and spirit. And if I find myself getting slightly judgmental and prissy about what yoga “should” be, I remind myself that as long as the outcome of yoga (in any form) results in someone feeling good and doing good, then that’s a happy happening, isn’t it?
Yoga is also big business. There are over 25 million people who practice yoga in the United States alone, and yoga is a $27 billion industry, with cray cray indulgences of $420 yoga leggings and $140 yoga mats. Yikes! (You see? There goes that judgment barometer again).
As this multibillion-dollar market will continue to grow and change, so do efforts to keep the practice rooted in tradition. For my yoga practice, as a student and as a teacher, I welcome a blend of the old and the new, which is why you’ll find me using the Sanskrit names of the asanas in a nod of respect to their heritage, even though Patanjali sure didn’t see Ardha Chandra Chapasana coming. And at the same time, you’ll find me gleefully hanging upside down like a bat and connecting with my inner child, in the joy-filled practice of aerial yoga (Unnata Yoga) … because joy is what yoga is about, for me.
So, on this special day of yoga, whatever peace, calm, bliss, perspective, awareness, or contentment your yoga practice brings you, take a moment today to celebrate that and share it with others, in happy gratitude.
Happy International Yoga Day!