This month marks the first ever International Day of Yoga! The International Day of Yoga was proposed by India's Prime Minister Modi last September, and was met with resounding support by the U.N. in December. 175 countries backed the creation of an International Day of Yoga, which will be on June 21st (yes, this also happens to be the Summer Solstice!). So, on this energetically powerful day of the summer solstice, thousands of people around the globe will be joining together in their practice and love of yoga.
In honor of this special occasion, I would like to take a moment to review what yoga is exactly. Yoga is often seen as a sequence of physical maneuvers that keeps our body healthy and limber. It is also said that yoga connects our body, mind, and spirit. Many teachers of yoga recite the definition from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras as yogas citta vritti nirodhah - yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations. And, still others describe yoga as "union," from the root word "to yoke," referring to the union of our self with our true Self. While all of these definitions of yoga are correct and accurate, the underlying thread that unites them all is that the practices of yoga lead us to self-realization.
The many practices of yoga can be seen as tools that help quiet our mental chatter enough so that we may begin to see our true Self. This Self is something beyond the "I, me, and mine" of our Ego bodies. It is beyond our dreams and desires. It is beyond our grasping for objects, clinging to people, and reaching for goals. It is. It simply is. It exists at all times, in all places. It has always been and will always be.
Yoga describes that our Self, our true nature, although ever present, is covered by layers and layers of thoughts (citta) and deeply conditioned habits (samskaras). Our citta and samskaras are reinforced by our mind (manas) and ego (ahamkara). Yoga offers us practices to shed these layers; and, in doing so, to uncover the diamond within all of us. We are advised in Yoga to take a step-wise approach, with loving gentleness, ease, and compassion. The reason being that it has taken lifetimes for us to build up these layers, and so we must take care in shedding them.
As we begin the journey of working through these layers, it is as though we are cleaning a mirror: We begin to see our own reflection with greater clarity and in new light. We begin to see the love, peace, innate joy, happiness and bliss that is our true nature. We then naturally begin to realize that our true nature is the same as our neighbor's true nature. We begin to see the common bond that we have with all beings everywhere. And, it is through this realization, my friends, that the significance of having an International Day of Yoga becomes even more apparent.
June 21, 2015 symbolizes a day to celebrate unity - that the same energy flowing through me is also flowing through you, that we are all one on this Earth, that we are all simply striving to gain greater understanding and clarity of ourselves and our lives on this magnificent planet. This day reminds us that we must come together to support each other on this universal journey. It reminds us that our innate, most natural state of being, is one of harmony and peace. It reminds us to love our neighbors, and perhaps more importantly, that it all begins by loving and honoring our self, that true Self residing within each of us.
"They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them." -The Bhagavad Gita; Ch 2-55.