And Now, Yoga Day (Why 21 June ?)

Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (read more on this book), considered by yogis as the ultimate yoga handbook (even if only of 195 sutras), opens with the words:

अथ योगानुशासनम् (atha yoganushasanam)

This may be translated as “and now, the discipline of yoga”. Many commentators consider these words to be quite an abrupt start to a discussion on yoga. Some commentators don’t make much of these opening words while some note the word ‘anushasanam’ meaning ‘self-discipline’ which they stress is the foundation of yoga.

As Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev explains, the significance of these words is essentially that yoga can only be approached in earnest when one is ready for it. And one is usually ready for it when one has had their fill of life’s wine of materialism and realised that it hasn’t gotten them the everlasting high they hoped it would. “Now what?” Now, yoga.

It seems increasingly like humanity as a collective whole is reaching this point quite rapidly. That’s not to say that they collectively also realise it or know what to do about it. However the many enlightened beings who foresaw the state of our world in this century (like Sri Aurobindo, Vivekananda and Yogananda Parmahansa to name a few) as well as those who walk in our midst today, all stress the importance to humanity to take up the tools of yoga. Patanjali’s words, being timeless, seem to also directly address the world today.  In an age speeded along at a frenetic pace by technology, it is imperative that we know the stability and peace that yoga can bring to our lives. In times of rapid change, the need to find the eternal becomes more intense. The time has come, now yoga.


Significance of Yoga Day on 21 June

In 2015, thanks to the efforts of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 21 June was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations. The resolution set a record for being supported by the highest number of countries at the UN (175 out of 193).

21 June is the summer solstice, when the sun turns southwards in the sky in the northern hemisphere. In Indian culture, the phase of the sun in its ~6 month southward run is called Dakshinayana. This phase is referred to as sadhana pada or the phase when one should focus on sadhana i.e. spiritual practices (the phase of the sun’s northern run is called Uttarayana which is the kaivalaya pada, gnana pada or period associated with Samadhi). Dakshinayana is for purification and receptivity and Uttarayana is for fulfilment and enlightenment.

According to yogic sciences, the summer solstice has a significant impact on the human system. If one were to understand the human body in relation to these two phases of the sun, then the lower 3 chakras (energy centres) of the body (Muladhara, Swadhisthana and Manipura) can be more easily purified during Dakshinayana and the higher 3 chakras (Vishuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara) can be more easily purified during Uttarayana. Hence the significance of sadhana involving the body such as yoga-asanas, during Dakshinayana beginning at the summer solstice.


From gross to subtle

Yoga, in essence, is about aligning with the cosmic. At the gross level, this involves yoga-asanas to align our inner geometries with the cosmic geometries. All spiritual practices aim at leading the individual from the gross to the subtle. The practices themselves too can be seen as evolving from gross to subtle as the sadhak advances on the path. What starts out as yoga-asanas or pranayama, focusing on the body and breath, ultimately leads one to the subtler practice of the real yoga, uniting with the Divine within.

So, I’m not going to shake my head too strongly at the sporty yoga practitioners who seem focused on the bodily and health benefits of yoga. There’s many ways to start and all are welcome because truly, it’s time for yoga.

For sources and more information about Dakshinayana, see articles by Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev here and here.

Read also: 5 Reasons Why Yoga is Better than Gymming


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