Today is the International Day of Yoga. Previously, people did not need to have a special day for performing yoga because yoga was part and parcel of their lives. Unfortunately, now we need a special day to remind us to perform yoga, just as we need a day to remember our mother and father.
In the olden days, people would wake up in the morning, bow down to mother Earth, and then, facing the sun, chant prayers and perform Surya Namaskarah. Today, in many countries, six or seven people out of ten have vitamin D deficiency from lack of exposure to sunlight. It is postulated that vitamin D deficiency may be one of the precipitating factors for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Some may argue that even people with normal vitamin D levels get Alzheimer’s disease. This is true, but studies have shown that a majority of people with this condition have a vitamin D deficiency. It is also thought to be a cause of depression, a higher incidence of which is found in countries that have less sunlight.
Yoga is beneficial for our health, physical beauty, and mental discipline. It helps reduce our cholesterol and maintain cardiac health. It increases our bone strength. This is especially important as the incidence of arthritis and osteoporosis is on a steep rise. It even helps improve our memory power.
It is important to do balanced exercise for at least ten minutes a day. Along with this, we also need at least 10 minutes of sun exposure a day. Nowadays, everyone goes from their air-conditioned home to their air-conditioned car and from their air-conditioned car straight to their air-conditioned office. So we have very little exposure to our natural environment. People tell Amma that they bought a $50,000 car for their child to drive two miles to a gym, where they spend $2,000 a year for a gym membership. This sounds funny, but it is quite common. It would be much more productive to just walk to the gym. If people would walk outside in a park for two miles or even less, they wouldn’t need to spend all this money; they would get the same, if not more exercise; they would get fresh air and exposure to sunlight – all in all, a healthier life. Not only that, they would conserve fuel and reduce harmful emissions, thereby helping to protect the environment. Too much of anything is also a problem. So many people in tropical countries are suffering from heatstroke and skin cancer. So, we need to strike a balance.
Yoga creates powerful spiritual vibrations. They positively affect both us and others. It is like entering a perfume factory. Even after emerging, the sweet fragrance will remain on our body, pleasing both to others and ourselves. When we perform yoga with complete awareness, it purifies each and every cell in our body.
To sum up, the purpose of Yoga is for our inner wellbeing. It does not belong to any particular faith or religion. It was passed down to us by the ancient seers for the wellbeing of humanity. Yoga helps us to reconnect with nature and eventually become one with God.
While special celebrations were held in honor of the first International Day of Yoga, Amma has long demonstrated her commitment to preserving the tradition of yoga and making it accessible to all. Yoga has been taught for many years at her primary, secondary, and university-level educational institutions (totaling more than 100,000 students nationwide), and through regular Amrita Yoga classes at Amritapuri.
On International Day of Yoga, Amma shared Her insights on the benefits of yoga while one of her disciples guided all attendees of her program in Santa Fe in simple yoga exercises. At Amma’s schools, ashrams, centers, and satsang groups all over the world, special yoga sessions were held to raise awareness of the importance and benefits of yoga.
Excerpts from Amma’s Teachings compiled by Team Amrita Yoga, Amritapuri