International Yoga Day is celebrated on June 21 to bring awareness about the unique form of exercise that not only brings health and wellness but also deepens the sense of connection between one's inner consciousness and the external world.

The word "Yoga" comes from the Sanskrit root "Yuj" which translates to "to join", "to yoke" or "to unite" which essentially means the union of individual consciousness with that of the universal consciousness.

The practice aims to bring perfect harmony between the mind and body, and one's relationship with nature.

The first Yoga Day was observed worldwide on June 21, 2015, after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed the idea in the UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014.

Although the practice of Yoga has been in existence since the beginning of civilization, the form of exercise has recently gained popularity in the new context of the pandemic. Health professionals have found Yoga to be beneficial in fighting depression during COVID isolation and helpful in post-COVID rehabilitation.

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Here are some health benefits of practicing Yoga every day (Courtesy: John Hopkins Medicine, Healthline)

  1. Yoga helps improve strength, balance, and flexibility: Flexibility and balance are vital components of physical health and even the lowest intensity style of yoga is found to improve flexibility. Although losing flexibility is considered a natural part of aging, adults over the age of 65 who practice yoga are found to have significant improvement in flexibility.
  2. Yoga helps reduce stress: Scientists have found that along with the physical practice of "asanas", meditation, breath work, and auditory rituals like chanting, help relieve stress and muscle tension trapped in the body. Movement-based therapies and breathing practices of Yoga have also proven helpful in making significant improvements in people with symptoms of depression.
  3. Yoga can ease symptoms of arthritis: Studies have shown that yoga can reduce the discomfort of tender, swollen joints for people suffering from arthritis.
  4. Yoga is found to improve heart health: As practicing yoga helps to reduce stress and body-wide inflammation, the form of exercise helps improve cardiovascular health. Yoga is also beneficial in managing high blood pressure and excess weight which are contributing factors to heart health.
  5. Yoga relaxes the mind and improves sleep: Studies have shown that people with a consistent bedtime yoga routine have better sleep, as the exercise helps clear the mind and prepares the body to fall asleep.