The United Nations has proclaimed 21 June as the International Day of Yoga, with the aim to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practising yoga. The theme for the 2018 International Day of Yoga organized by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations is “Yoga for Peace”. The International Day of Yoga continues to grow in popularity because it is now, more than ever, regarded as more than just an exercise but as a great tool for staying healthy.
Yoga has been in existence for over 5000 years, with more than 100 different forms in existence. It is described as the ‘union of mind, body and spirit which addresses the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions towards an overall harmonious state of being.
This practice is, however, an underestimated form of well-being in some parts of the world including Nigeria where it is barely a practice. It is often thought to be a foreign practice that is ‘fake and evil’, laying emphasis on its imitation of the spiritual practices of Indians; and perceived as quite expensive in Nigeria or irrelevant to fitness and wellbeing.
THE PHYSICAL AND MENTAL BENEFITS
Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. This form of tri-exercise is seen as one of the most relatable exercises to ease out chronic pain, reduce blood pressure, insomnia and a host of other non-communicable diseases.
This form of exercise is also a weight loss therapy which aids increased muscle strength and tone, improved respiration energy and vitality, maintaining a balanced metabolism and also a means of protection from injury.
Asides from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, which is known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate and yoga can be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life”.
Dr.Theresa Ugalahia, one of the few certified psychiatrists in Nigeria explained the benefits of practising yoga:
“Yoga is double-pronged and improves both the mental and physical state. It is unique for its type of relaxation in cajoling the mind to focus, more like a form of retracting to self. Yoga is seen as an act of worship or spirituality by the Indians and Buddhist in years past but has evolved in recent years. Nigerians are beginning to see benefits in spite of the religious beliefs attached to Yoga.
“Yoga should be a general recommendation as part of the rehabilitation therapy for drug addicts who seek a high by consuming dangerous substances, a high that yoga can give them by enhancing euphoric hormones.
“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centres attention; and sharpens concentration,” She further said, “body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.”
Onyinye, a Yoga Instructor and CEO of Olifestyleholistic, the official instructor at the ‘Yoga for harmony and peace’ program in the High Commision of India In Abuja confirmed that yoga is the most important therapy to mankind for healing the soul, mind and body.
“Yoga trains us to systematically sharpen and sensitize our emotions and consciously expand and diffuse the overtones of such sensitization”, she says.
Describing some of the yoga poses, she said “Asana and Savasana are steady and pleasant postures which produce mental equilibrium and prevent fickleness of mind as it brings steadiness, health and lightness of limb. A steady practice of Asana develops the ability, balance, endurance and great vitality that aids resistance to depression and mental instability”.
She concluded by saying that Yoga is the perfect therapy for people who are just recovering from the dreaded thought of suicide, domestic violence, drug addiction, war and other unstable crisis.4