Yoga: The Path of Global Transformation
Yoga is a spiritual practice and is one of the greatest gifts to the world from the Indian religious and cultural tradition. It is not just about exercise; in fact, it is a powerful tool to discover optimal health and happiness. There are many physical, mental and social benefits of Yoga that include increased flexibility, improved immunity, disease management and stress reduction.
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word “yuj”- to yoke, join or unite. It refers to the integration of the body, mind, and spirit. This is different from Western philosophy and scientific thought that views the mind, body, and spirit as separate. Yogic philosophy is about connecting the mind with the body, and uniting individual consciousness with universal consciousness. It is the integration of one’s thoughts, words, and actions to create a sense of wholeness. It is about exploring one’s inner world, and becoming more mindful of the world around us. The world where we can live in non-violence (ahimsa), cleanliness (saucha), truthfulness (satya), and contentment (santosha).
Due to Yoga’s evidence-based ability to improve health outcomes, millions of people are now practicing it across countries, religions, races and socio-economic classes. In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly approved by a record-breaking consensus of 177 out of 193 nations, to make June 21st the International Day of Yoga (IDY). “In its resolution, the UNGA recognized that Yoga provides a holistic approach to health and well-being and to a wider dissemination of information about the benefits of practicing Yoga for the health of the world population” (Ministry of AYUSH -Government of India).
This year in Vancouver, this event was celebrated on June 25th at the SFU Segal Graduate School of Business on behalf of the Consulate General of India’s office and the Indo-Canadian Economic Association. The program included a screening of a documentary called “Yoga for the World,” which explored the history of Yoga in India and the impact it has had on the world. There was also a slide presentation of IDY events being held throughout the world- from India to Africa to Europe. There were remarks by the Consular General of India and the Deputy Mayor of Vancouver who shared the importance of Yoga in our growing urban environment
This was followed by a demonstration of the Common Yoga Protocol developed by the Indian Ministry of AYUSH. I had the honour of teaching Yoga postures from this protocol with my esteemed colleagues Yogacharini Maitreyi, Swami Satya Prakash, and Sri Venu. Together we shared the valuable teachings of Yoga on this historic day. Some of the practices within the protocol included warm-ups, asana (yoga postures), and pranayama (breathing practices). These methods are easy to do, and only take a couple of minutes. Let’s get started by learning one simple breathing practice and one warm-up that you can bring into your daily life.
Breathing Practice: Shitali and Sitkari Pranayama
This exercise is good to practice in the summer month to help with overheating, thirst and fatigue. It is calming and cooling for the mind and body.
Sitting in a comfortable place, exhale gently through both nostrils to begin. Curl the tongue like a pipe; the tongue extends about a ½ inch beyond the lips. Inhale through the pipe using an abdominal breath. A slight hissing sound is made as the air passes over the tongue on the inhalation. If it as if you are inhaling through a straw. Notice the cooler air passing through the mouth. After a full belly breath inhalation, hold the breath for 1-2 seconds, then exhale naturally through the nostrils. One inhalation and exhalation is one round. Begin with 5 to 10 rounds.
Note: The ability to curl the tongue is a genetic trait; if you can’t curl the tongue you can practice Sitkari Pranayama. This method is the same as above except to inhale a cooling breath, bite the teeth together, place the tip of the tongue against the back of the teeth, and draw the air in through the sides of the mouth, with a hissing sound.
Warm-up: Neck Stretches
This is useful for reducing tension in the neck and can be done sitting at your desk during the day.
Inhale head is the center. Exhale, lower the left ear to left shoulder (Hold 5-10 seconds with breath).
Inhale, bring the head back to the center. Exhale lower the right ear to the right shoulder (Hold 5-10 seconds with breath). Bring the head back to center. Then lower the chin to the chest and begin to rotate the head from shoulder to shoulder with each breath for one minute. Notice how your head and neck feels after the practice.
By: Naseem Gulamhusein
She is the program coordinator and teacher trainer for the Langara 250 hour Yoga Teacher Training Program. In 2008, she developed the curriculum for this successful program- the first of its kind in a public college in Canada. She has worked in the field of holistic health and wellness for 15 years, studying and educating people in the practices of yoga, service & community. She is a passionate supporter of experiential and heart-centered education for adults and children. Since 2001, she has been teaching traditional yoga, as taught in India, and developed a keen interest in the therapeutic and transformative benefits. She has trained and inspired hundreds of teachers through her passion, commitment, and humour. Personally, she enjoys writing, having published several articles in local magazines, and will be commencing her Master’s in Education this fall at SFU.
Langara College offers Yoga Teacher Training and Therapeutic Yoga Teacher Training Programs, as well as professional development courses for yoga teachers and students. To learn more visit our website: www.langara.ca/yoga