To mark International Yoga Day 2017 (June 21), Sian Davies-Vollum, Head of Geoscience and yoga teacher of 16 years, discusses the health benefits of taking up yoga and explains how it differs from other forms of exercise.
International Yoga Day is the day of the year when yoga practitioners all over the globe get to celebrate their yoga in all its forms and manifestations and those who don’t might wonder what it’s all about. I have been practicing and teaching yoga for the past 20 years or so. I am passionate about yoga and all its benefits and I really believe that it has something for everyone and that anyone can benefit from it.
How does yoga differ to other forms of exercise?
The question that I get asked most often is ‘How is yoga different to other forms of exercise?’ I would say there are three big differences.
- The first big difference is yoga’s origin and history. The essence of yoga originated in the Indian sub-continent over 5,000 years ago and although it has evolved hugely since then, the yoga we practice today is based on those philosophies. Traditionally yoga has eight limbs or parts. The ones that are most recognisable in western yoga today are those connecting to the physical practice (the poses or asanas), conscious breathing and meditation.
- Yoga is not just about the body and how flexible you are. Practicing yoga requires a connection between the body, the breath and the mind. When you are in a yoga pose you are asking yourself how you feel in it, breathing through the tight spots and setting your mind to be right there in the moment. Because of this, the benefits of yoga are not just physical but also mental. Yes you can become more flexible and get stronger, but practicing yoga can help you to relax, to be calm and to release stress.
- The last big difference is that yoga is not just about what happens in class, it’s about applying that body, mind and breath connection in every day life, being present and engaged with whatever you do and helping build resilience to deal with whatever life throws at you.
An added benefit is that you can take yoga with you anywhere you go and you don’t need any fancy equipment. There are yoga classes and practitioners all over the world and all their practices are based on the same essential tradition. A down dog is a down dog whether you are taking a class in a gym in Derby or in a swanky studio in Santa Monica.
Where does International Yoga Day originate?
In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN address suggested the date of 21 June, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares special significance in many parts of the world.