If one of the things you wished to achieve is to get fit and healthy but have had a million and one reasons to not actually do something about it, it is never too late. If you have not gone to the gym, done any sort of exercise (alone or with friends), it’s probably time to heed the call of yoga.
Half of the year is almost over, have you realized that? One day you are jumping and welcoming the new year, and promising yourself new resolutions, next thing you know, the time has gone so fast and well, most of what you wished to accomplish are still only on paper or in your wish list.
The First International Yoga Day was celebrated worldwide last June 21, with over 193 countries observing it simultaneously. The United Nations-declared day came after the call for the adoption of June 21st as International Day of Yoga by Honorable Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. During his address to the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. ” In Suggesting June 21, which is the Summer Solstice, as the International Day of Yoga, Mr. Narendra Modi had said that, “the date is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world. ”
A significant day, indeed.
And with this very successful celebration all over the world, perhaps it is but fitting that we look at ourselves and keep in mind that yoga, a 5000-year old legacy from India, is the journey of the self, to the self, and through the self. With so many distractions and stressors surrounding us, yoga can be our answer to achieve a healthier mind, and a healthier body.
Here are 6 truths about yoga, and why you should start now:
It is never too late to start.
There is this myth that yoga is only for the twenty-something. We certainly beg to disagree.
Ms. Lisa Macuja-Elizalde, prima ballerina of the Philippines, just turned 50, has a 24-inch waistline, and practices every day. Ok, so she is a ballerina. But she hasn’t always practiced yoga. She was doing the usual stretching exercises required before ballet classes and shows, but discovered yoga fairly recently. The real value, she says, is the inner peace and harmony that comes from its regular practice. Mindfulness and peace, she says are what she achieves from her 45-minutes daily yoga routine.
So whether you are a young professional, mid-career working mother, senior manager, retired grandparent, and want to try it out, go ahead. You do not have to sign up for a class. There are many sites to refer to. Even Oprah Winfrey is a strong advocate of yoga and meditation, and has partnered with Deepak Chopra of the Chopra Meditation Center to offer a free online 21-day Meditation Experience, “manifesting grace through gratitude.”
Yoga can be life-changing, and life-prolonging
While we are not necessarily talking about meeting your Mr. Right by signing up in yoga classes, as what Claudia Altucher thought would achieve when she got into yoga (and admits she loves men who do yoga), yoga can be one step toward achieving a longer lifespan.
The life expectancy of Americans is at 78.74 years old, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, as written in USA Today. Japan is highest at 84 (in 2012) and Singapore is at fourth at 82 years (following Switzerland and San Marino), while the Philippines is at 68.55. India averages at almost 69 years too, and this is one of the reasons why the Prime Minister wanted to create more awareness on in its practices. By its worldwide commitment, it hopes to touch many people’s lives and encourage regular practice thereby achieving a healthy mind and body, resulting in a healthy society and nation.
Yoga is not just for celebrities
There is a long list of Hollywood celebrities practicing yoga, among them, Jennifer Aniston, who credits the activity to making her difficult daily tasks doable. Julianne Moore does Ashtanga yoga 2-3 times a week, while Kristin Davis was a yoga teacher before venturing into her acting career. Celebrity couple Alec Baldwin and wife Hilaria Thomas, a yoga teacher, have come up with an instructional video, and Alec credits yoga to his healthy lifestyle, weight loss, renewed energy, and diet change. Mia Farrow went as far as studying transcendental meditation with the renowned Maharashi Mahesh Yogi. And then there are Adam Levine, Julia Roberts, Demi Moore, Charlize Theron, Reese Witherspoon. The list goes on.
While these celebrities may be our inspiration for finally starting yoga, we should not be pressured into strictly following what they do. Go online, search on youtube, read up on it. You don’t even need to buy yoga clothes! In the United States, yoga is now a $27 billion industry – with all kinds of outfits, mats, accessories. But do we really need to contribute more to Uncle Sam? Anything comfortable is fine. Simplicity and brevity are what yoga espouses. Ten minutes a day is a good start until you build it up to a comfortable routine. No one will look at the tag of your clothes anyway. The important thing is the outcome.
While the regular practice of yoga contributes to a better posture, mindful breathing, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, it also makes one a calmer and focused person, produces more kindness in people – not quick to judge or treat other people harshly, always positively aware of other people’s feelings, and have made more peace, with themselves and with others. The kindness and inner calm radiate to other people thereby sending more good vibes.
One inspiring story of healing through yoga is that of Angela who was battling lupus for 18 years and tried one evening to do the exercieses, which helped her ease her joint pains and migraine. She did a regular routine of two daily workouts of yoga combined with dance and skateboarding. Incredibly she has been completely healed and credits it to yoga and homeopathy.
The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center conducted a study on stress reduction through meditation and found out that regular practice of yoga and meditation may aid in slowing down the progression of Alzheimer’s. Fourteen adults between 55-90 years old who had a mild cognitive impairment, participated in a mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) study. Indeed it showed that MBSR may reduce hippocampal atrophy and improve functional connectivity in the same areas of the brain most affected by Alzheimer’s disease. Though a small study, the doctors involved know further research is needed but are encouraged by the findings.
Yoga is gender friendly, and more
Have a boyfriend? Yoga together! The great thing about yoga is it does not discriminate, not just on gender, but also on age, community, religion, nationality, body type, and even location. Have a mat, will yoga. Or rather, have space, will yoga. Because it can be done anytime and anywhere – in the corner of your room, in the beach, garden, mountain. There was a story where the singer Madonna did her yoga poses along the aisle of an airplane when it was stranded due to bad weather.
While practitioners are dominantly female, at a whopping 83%, a lot of men are supposedly shying away from this very beneficial workout because of certain myths, saying this is a “chic workout, boring, non-competitive.” Little do they know that yoga was developed by men centuries ago in India. It has been unfortunately feminized. Fortunately, there have been men who are embracing the healthy lifestyle, among them, athletes who discover that yoga helped them avoid sports injuries. So go ahead, male species of the world, do yoga. Women honestly think men who do yoga are hot.
Yoga is forever
Yes, there is a forever, and we know yoga is here to stay. It has been in existence for thousands of years and it is not going away anytime soon. While the Western world has transformed the practice into modernity, or even commercialism, the real meaning of yoga will always remain, that is to live life in tune with its natural and seasonal rhythms.
We all desire for longevity, strength, mindfulness, calmness and peace. We definitely can achieve these with the strong resolve to start taking care of ourselves with the simplest of step – yoga. Let us gift ourselves with the complete stillness of mind, a cessation of mental fluctuation, leading us to have healthier bodies, and healthier minds. The result? A better and more productive, kinder you. Someone said that if you have time for Facebook, then you have time for yoga.
Now, won’t that be the best gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones?
Hari Om Tat Sat.