21st June, being the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, and having a special significance in many parts of the world, was declared as an International Day for Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This date was suggested by the Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi. More than 170 countries in the world celebrate International Yoga Day and spread awareness about the benefits of yoga.
T. Krishnamacharya opened the first Hatha Yoga School in Mysore in 1924 and in 1936, Swami Sivananda founded the Divine Life Society on the banks of the Ganges.
Types of Yoga
By doing yoga you work both on your strength and your flexibility. Some forms of yoga are about relaxation and in other types you move more. Ashtanga and Power yoga are very physical and help improve muscle bone, while less physical styles such as Hatha and Iyengar yoga, provide strength and endurance.
Another type of yoga which is more spiritual and philosophical in approach include meditation, breathing techniques and chanting as well as yoga postures. Kripalu yoga also begins with slow movements that barely cause a sweat, and progresses through three levels of deeper mind-body awareness.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga regulates blood pressure and slows the heart rate. A slower heart rate benefits people with high blood pressure or people who have had a stroke.
The other benefits of yoga are they it reduces inflammation, helps fight depression, reduces chronic pain and improves the quality of life.
Yoga also improves your bone health. Poses like downward and upward facing dog strengthen arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures.
If you have a well balanced asana practice with plenty of backbends, forward bends and twists you will also keep your disks supple.
If you are new to yoga, then it is good to start with these basic poses:
Tadasana (Mountain pose): This involves the major groups of muscles and improves focus and concentration. It is the starting position for all the other asanas.
Vrikshasana (Tree pose): This improves your balance and strengthens your legs and back and gives you a sense of grounding.
Adho Mukho Svanasana (Downward facing dog): This pose stretches hamstrings, chest and lengthens the spine.
Trikonasana (Triangle pose): This stretches the legs and torso, mobilises the hips and promotes deep breathing.
Kursiasana (Chair pose): This is a powerful pose and strengthens the muscles of the legs and arms.
Naukasana (Boat pose): This tightens the abdominal muscles and strengthens the shoulders and upper back.
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose): This one strengthens the lower back muscles while cushioning the spine.
Paschimottanasana: This asana helps in improving the flexibility of the hamstrings and hips.
Child's pose: This restful posture helps let go and surrender.
Sukhasana: Sukhasana is a comfortable position for Pranayam.
Food To Eat Before Yoga:
If you practice yoga in the morning it is better to eat bananas and other fruits like berries, 45 minutes prior to your session.
If you practice yoga in the evening have light snacks such as steamed vegetables, salads, nuts and seeds an hour before exercise.
Food To Eat After Yoga Session:
You should drink water 30 minutes after you have exercised to rehydrate.
Always ensure that you are well hydrated. Drink water, coconut water or lemon water. Your focus and energy levels are compromised even with mild dehydration.
Let's pledge to stay healthy and engage in yoga and a healthy diet this International Yoga Day.