Today, June 21st, is the longest day of the year in the Northern hemisphere and today is also International Yoga Day. Honorable Prime Minister Modi had suggested June 21st to be declared as International Yoga Day and it is no coincidence that this date was proposed. Apart from being the longest day, it has spiritual significance as well. The summer solstice marks the transition to Dakshinayana ( Dakshinayana is the period when Sun travels back from North to South) and the first Yogi, Lord Shiva is believed to have begun imparting the knowledge of yoga to mankind.
On December 11, 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21st as the International Day of Yoga after Honorable Prime Minister Modi’s recommendation and proposal during his address in the General Assembly in September, 2014. He said "Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature". Our Prime Minister hit the nail on the head when he said it is not about being an exercise. Exercises increase the metabolism whereas yoga just does the reverse. We have heard of so many incidents of people, even celebrities dying on the treadmill or in a gym due to a heart attack or even a cardiac arrest but have we ever heard of a person dying while doing yoga? Yoga takes you back to nature and aligns your body and mind. It is a science given to us by Rishi Patanjali thousands of years ago with the ultimate objective of stilling the mind and being in yog or being in union with oneself and the Divine. Yoga is beyond and above religion.
Sadly, yoga has been associated with only asans and most people even refer to asans as exercises though both have different and opposite effects on the body. In today’s times, where everything is priced and marketed, this Divine science unfortunately too has been a victim of commercialisation. Have we ever heard of Ramkrishna Paramhans, Ramana Maharishi or Guru Gobind Singh or any of the sages and saints charging a fee to attend their discourses or transfer their knowledge to seekers? Kaliyug is the era of commercialisation where not just yoga but products under its name are sold. In the ancient times, Guru-Shishya parampara was followed and the Guru dakshina was given AFTER the process was complete and the Guru Dakshina could be anything, even non-monetary like some task which a Guru may ask his shishya to perform or anything the Guru deemed fit.
As Yogi Ashwini ji, a propounder of the Guru-Shishya parampara, says “Yoga is the ultimate science and it is not possible without a Guru. Look for a Guru who exudes what he talks, is in vairagya ( state of detachment) and has no commercial interest in or with his shishyas and does not charge a fee. This Divine science is priceless, how can anybody put a price to it and charge a fee?”.
Yogi Ashwini ji elaborates “These days yog is mistaken as a means to improve physical life and solve physical problems - to cure disease, to gain health, to grow financially or mend relationships…The purpose of yog is take you beyond the physical and related pleasures and not to tie you more into it. If anywhere in the world one is promising all these in the name of yog, be rest assured what is being offered is not yog”.