By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer
It’s time to stretch your body into a twisted pretzel, because the first ever International Yoga Day is coming on June 21! The ancient health practice began over 6,000 years ago in India, helping people loosen their muscles and calm their emotions with unique meditative, breathing, and exercising techniques.
India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, called for the United Nations (UN) to declare International Yoga Day last September, during his address to the UN General Assembly.
Modi said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; 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 within yourself, the world and the nature.”
He suggested June 21, since it’s the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Several months later, the UN formally made it a worldwide event!
Yoga has been linked to several health benefits, like stress reduction, improved fitness, and managing chronic (persistent) health problems. While many people practice it as part of their Hindu or Buddhist faith, others merely use it as an alternative form of exercise. Yoga teachers show people how to quiet their minds with controlled breathing and enhance their physical flexibility with postures. Commonly used poses include downward dog pose, tree pose, bridge pose, triangle pose, and pigeon pose.
The best part about yoga is you don’t need a fancy yoga rug or fashionable yoga pants to get into it. Just hit up your local YMCA or join an after school club to unlock the secrets of yoga! If you’re new to the whole yoga thing, you might feel awkward when someone bows before you and says “Namaste” with a big smile on their face. Don’t worry, though, because it’s just a commonly used Hindu expression that basically means: “I bow to the divine within you.”
Featured image courtesy of UN and Jennifer Boussou. Image of Yoga Day courtesy of UN.