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  • Writer's pictureBrandy Berlin

Digging Deeper: An Invitation to Investigate the True Significance of International Yoga Day

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

I’ve been thinking about my recent trip to Spain to see spirit daughter Ariel Rose, and it’s almost summer, and it has occurred to me that Summer Solstice - and International Yoga Day - are just around the bend. Isn’t it interesting that IYD landed right on the Solstice? Was that intentional? (Cuz yoga helps us become more intentional, right?!) And how long have we had an IYD? What instigated it? As an historian, I wanted to know more stuff and things and think critically about IYD – so that’s what I’ll be doing and sharing leading up to the celebration of it. Might you also be curious??

Questioning the Narrative

In recent years, global celebration of events like International Yoga Day has brought attention to the ancient practice of yoga. While on the surface, these initiatives seem positive, it is crucial to delve deeper and critically examine what we are truly supporting through our participation. Perhaps, you have never thought about it like that before. I’d bet most folks haven’t, and why should they? It’s a day we get to celebrate a truly beautiful ancient gift to the world! (I would argue.) But, in order to fully understand the impact and implications of yoga, we must approach it with healthy skepticism and apply critical thinking skills. (I bet you’ve heard that from me before and yes, you’ll hear it again!) By doing so, we can discern the authenticity, legitimacy, truthfulness, and trustworthiness of the claims and sources surrounding yoga and wellness in general, and IYD in particular.

Why am I here?

I want to know what it is I’m actually showing up for and celebrating, and hope I’m not alone. But, I’m not going to tell you what to think. Instead I’ll be presenting lots of stuff to consider, and it will be up to you to apply critical thinking skills and decide for yourself. A request: Please be patient. Learning and discernment is a process and a practice. This blog post is the first in a few steps we will need to take in order to do justice to our task — should you choose to accept it.

The Power and Pitfalls of Feel-Good Claims

Yoga, with its emphasis on physical and mental well-being, has become a source of inspiration and motivation for millions of people worldwide. It is accompanied by a plethora of feel-good claims, promising various benefits ranging from stress reduction and improved flexibility to spiritual enlightenment. While these claims may hold some truth, it is important to approach them with a critical mindset. It feels good to feel good. We get bumps of fun neurochemicals, like serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and oxytocin, and can literally get addicted to them. I did and loved it! But, it can be a short-term fix with a serious comedown. When those claims are not grounded in truth, it creates a serious impact. When we discover we have been misled by folks and institutions that claimed to have our best interests at heart, the physiological, emotional, and spiritual fallout can be devastating. Our whole world can be shaken. Mine sure was.

Separating the Genuine from the Exploitative

One of the key aspects to consider is the authenticity and legitimacy of yoga practices and teachings. As yoga has gained popularity, it has also undergone various transformations and adaptations to suit different cultural contexts and personal preferences. This raises questions about the true essence of yoga and whether the commercialization and commodification of the practice have diluted its authenticity. Furthermore, the proliferation of yoga-related products, services, and certifications calls for a critical evaluation of the qualifications and intentions of those promoting them. It is crucial to discern between credible sources that adhere to the core principles of yoga and those that merely exploit its popularity for personal gain.

Again, A Gateway to Discernment

To navigate the world of yoga and its associated claims, critical thinking skills are essential. Critical thinking enables us to analyze information, evaluate sources, and question assumptions. It allows us to separate evidence-based claims from exaggerated or unsubstantiated statements. By cultivating a healthy skepticism, we can avoid blindly accepting information and make informed decisions about our participation in yoga-related activities.

Unveiling the Potential Blindspots

Context is vital when assessing the impact and implications of yoga. While it may promote personal well-being and unity on an individual level, we must not overlook the broader societal issues that require attention. It is necessary to consider how initiatives like International Yoga Day may divert attention from pressing human rights violations, discrimination, and social justice concerns faced by marginalized communities. Wait?! What are you talking about?? If this is the first time you are considering this, it’s totally ok and you are not alone. We all have shit we don’t see. I fully realize we all have a point of view which limits us. I fully realize not everyone is a university-trained historian who has been programmed to dig. I fully realize sometimes, I too, just DO NOT WANT TO LOOK OVER THERE…HOLY CRAP!?!

Seeking Balance

I refuse to dismiss yoga entirely. Nope. Instead, my aim is to strike a balance between embracing the positive aspects and critically evaluating the claims and practices associated with it. This requires engaging in open and informed discussions, challenging assumptions, and exploring diverse perspectives. By doing so, we can navigate the complexities of yoga and its potential impact on individuals and society.

My Prayer

Divine Spirit, we acknowledge the celebration of yoga and its profound impact on countless lives. We are grateful for the physical and mental well-being it has bestowed upon many individuals. Yet, in our journey with yoga, we humbly ask for guidance.

Divine Spirit, we seek your guidance as we embark on this path of critical thinking and understanding. May our pursuit of knowledge and discernment deepen our connection to yoga's profound teachings and empower us to make choices that honor our well-being and the well-being of others.

Help us to cultivate a willingness to think critically, enabling us to differentiate between what is authentic, legitimate, and true, and what may be misleading or unsubstantiated. May we question claims and sources ensuring that our support aligns with our values and promotes a holistic understanding of both benefits and potential drawbacks.

May we remain open to new insights and perspectives, while also staying grounded in our own truth. May our journey be one of self-discovery, growth, and respect for the diverse paths others may walk.

We offer this prayer with gratitude and an open heart, trusting that our commitment to critical thinking will enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.

May our journey with yoga be one of self-awareness, compassion, and transformation. Let it be so. Aho.

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