for me to consult a doctor, as, in general, I am a believer in the body’s ability to heal itself, but it did rob me of a good night’s sleep. At that time, I turned to yoga. The yoga teacher taught me a few simple asanas (or postures); the lower back pain diminished gradually and, over time, disappeared completely.
My interest in yoga was rejuvenated seven years ago. Since last year, when the Covid 19 pandemic crisis began, the whole world has been on a quest for better health. In urban settings, there is a growing recognition of the need to maintain physical and mental health in the confines of one’s tiny home, often in isolation.
At such a moment, the 7th International Day of Yoga, to be celebrated on 21 June, 2021 is a timely reminder that this ancient tradition from India, perfected by yogis or sages several thousand years ago, has much to offer.
What is Yoga ? In Sanskrit, the word means “union”. Union of the mind and the body, thought and action, achievemen and self-control. In 2014, during his address to the UN General Assembly, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that yoga signifies harmony between humanity and nature and is a holistic approach to health and well-being. Yoga, he said, is not just about physical exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. The practice of yoga can lead to a transformative lifestyle which in turn can contribute towards a better environment. Based on the Indian initiative, the United Nations adopted a consensus resolution declaring 21 June as the International Day of Yoga. Since 2015, the International Day of Yoga has been observed every year with enthusiasm all over the world including in Thailand.
Over the years, yoga has acquired a universal appeal. Thailand has plenty of yoga centres. While it is difficult to state with certainty as to when the tradition of yoga began, the first codified text on yoga, the Yoga Sutra (Sutras are aphorisms) by the great Indian sage Patanjali is said to have been composed around 2500 years ago. Buddhist texts have frequently referred to yoga.
The Yoga Sutra define the eight stages of yoga or Ashtanga Yoga (the Eight Limbs or Stages of Yoga). These are Yama – moral guidelines; Niyama – inner laws that govern the body and the mind; Asana – physical movements or postures; Pranayama – regulation of subtle energy through breath-control; Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses from the outer world; Dharana – focussing or the fixing of the mind on a single thought or object; Dhyana – meditation and Samadhi – state of profound absorption or union with the higher self. Beyond samadhi, a yogi experiences total freedom, or ananda (bliss).
Of these, the most well known are the asanas or the postures, pranayama and dhyana. The benefits of practising yoga are multiple – yoga has been clinically proven to reduce anxiety and stress; it helps in pain mitigation; in de-addiction; and in management of chronic non-communicative diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol. The role of dhyana or meditation in bringing about mental and spiritual calm is well recognised. The best part about yoga is that it does not require much space or fancy equipment: all you need is a simple mat, comfortable clothes and some peace and quiet.
Combined with Ayurveda the ancient system of Indian medicine, yoga can greatly help in boosting immunity. Like India’s Ayurveda (literally, the science of life), Thai traditional medicine has been found to be useful in treating many ailments. The healing power of herbs and spices including neem, ginger, turmeric, pepper, honey as well as ghee (or clarified butter) shows that simple and effective cures can be found in our kitchens or in our gardens.
This year, the theme of the International Day of Yoga is “Yoga at Home and Yoga with Family”. In keeping with Covid 19 pandemic related restrictions, the Indian embassy at Bangkok is celebrating the day on Sunday, 20 June in a virtual manner. In the run-up, online classes have been organised by the Swami Vivekanda Cultural Centre. Do participate.
As the ancient Sanskrit sloka which is often invoked at the end of a yoga session goes: Lokah Samastah Sukhino bhavantu - may the entire world be healthy and happy.
Published : June 19, 2021
By : Suchitra Durai India’s Ambassador to Thailand