Dr Safeeya Mohammed and her son, Musa, practicing Yoga pre-pandemic

International Day of Yoga 2021 (celebrated yesterday), carried the theme ‘Yoga for well-being’.

As many are coping with the pandemic and its restrictions and anxieties surge, yoga can offer significant benefits to persons dealing with psychological suffering and counter depression.

“Yoga is also playing a significant role in the psycho-social care and rehabilitation of COVID-19 patients in quarantine and isolation. It is particularly helpful in allaying their fears and anxiety,” shared the United Nations Secretary-General António Gutteres.

In today’s 24/7 world, with distressing news bombarding us, electronic devices demanding our attention, and an inbox full of emails that seem to need an immediate reply, it’s no wonder stress levels are at an all-time high.

In fact, research shows 90% of all doctor visits are linked to stress-related problems. Yoga can be that perfect remedy allowing moments of “intentional disconnect.”

It is one form of exercise that helps relieve stress while improving strength, balance, flexibility, and overall health.

If you can breathe,

you can do yoga

Patanjali, a renowned sage, shared, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” This ancient science that originated in India is universal in its practice, regardless of religious beliefs, age, gender or fitness level; A science of 1,000-plus years that offers immeasurable benefits to one’s individual health and wellbeing.

Yoga is considered by many as a holistic fitness system, first and foremost bringing a greater awareness of self. It goes beyond the basic mechanics of exercise, focusing on the union of the individual consciousness (soul) with the Universal consciousness (spirit). It is a system of raising your ability to perceive, to be present and ultimately reach self-actualisation.

Yoga adopted by

UN in 2015

When yoga first “arrived” into the western world, it was received with critique and surrounded by myths, but now, it has successfully entered mainstream, being heavily endorsed by celebrities, sports personalities and recommended by medical fraternities.

The concept of International Day of Yoga was proposed by Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi to the United Nations General Assembly and 177 countries positively adopted its formal recognition by United Nations, declaring 21st June 2015, the first commemorative International Day of Yoga.

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago included in that 177 countries marked that historic moment.

During his speech, PM Modi shared: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies 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. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well-being.”

Yoga can improve

your Focus

Yoga comprises of different asanas targeted towards the healing of particular health issues. Yoga poses function by stretching the muscles.

The yoga asanas help you move better while relieving tiredness or laziness. It has long been known to lower blood pressure and slow the heart rate.

A slower heart rate can benefit people with high blood pressure or heart disease, and people who have had a stroke.

Yoga has also been linked to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and better immune system function.

According to a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School, working across multiple systems in your body at yoga can:

• Dramatically ease chronic back pain and even alleviate arthritic pain

• Rev up your immunity by raising levels of disease-fighting antioxidants in your body

• Reduce anxiety, depression and improve sleep patterns

• Lower the need for medications by as much as 40% in lifestyle diseases

• Enable better emotional control and responses in conflict conditions

• Augment cognitive behavioural therapy for children

• Slow the process of ageing on a cellular level.

Building Resilience

Yoga not only provides physical and mental relaxation but also develops strength and resilience.

In fact, practicing yoga and meditating regularly causes actual changes in our brain. Researchers studied the brain scans of people before and after an eight-week ‘mindfulness-based stress-reduction programme’ (they took a weekly class and were told to meditate for 40 minutes every day).

Incredibly, the ‘after’ brain scans showed significant differences in parts of the brain associated with focus, attention, learning, memory, cognition, empathy, compassion and the stress (fight or flight) response.

How to celebrate

International Yoga Day

Due to the prevailing restrictions of the pandemic, public performances and events were not possible to commemorate the Yoga Day. However, in the lines of the theme ‘Yoga for well-being’, one can arrange yoga sessions with family and observe yoga classes online.

“Involve the children as well,” shared Harvard Health Mindfulness expert, “the virtual world worsened many anxieties and educating your children about the importance of yoga can provide a healing pathway for their ongoing distresses during this pandemic.”

In this evolving chaotic world, a system that can dial back both physical and mental challenges is reason enough to try it. But probably the most convincing reason would be; improving awareness and love of oneself, it simultaneously helps to boost compassion and gratitude, all of which contributes to greater happiness, a contented feeling of wholeness, and can be a path to positively changing the dynamics of this world.