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International Day of Yoga: yoga’s growing importance to post-COVID-19 wellbeing

International Day of Yoga (21 June) not only celebrates an ancient physical and mental practice which originated centuries ago in India, but also the many benefits of practicing yoga as a way of living that continues to grow in popularity around the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying lockdown measures have turned work-life balance upside down. Restrictions in many European countries and across the globe have resulted in people being confined for months in their homes that simultaneously serve as offices.

This has put enormous pressure on people’s physical and mental wellbeing, while gyms and yoga studios were forced to shut down.

In most European countries, practicing outdoor sports while physical distancing is now generally permitted. Gradually, measures for indoor sports are also being relaxed, with gyms and studios reopening in countries across the continent. In Italy, for instance, gyms and swimming pools reopened in most regions on 25 May, with strict physical distancing rules, but not in Lombardy, the epicentre of the country’s crisis. In Belgium, one of the hardest hit countries, indoor studios reopened on 8 June. In the Netherlands, however, they remain closed.

Yoga can be a powerful tool to deal with the lockdown’s uncertainty and isolation, as well as to maintain physical well-being. During lockdown and in its aftermath, an increasing number of practitioners have turned to online yoga classes to regain balance and strength. It shows the growing importance of yoga to post-COVID-19 wellbeing.

Déborah Nguyen, Communications Officer at the World Food Programme in South Africa and yoga teacher for UN employees, told UNRIC: “It was a little strange at first, to be alone in front of my computer in yoga clothes, giving lessons to colleagues from a distance. But I’m happy to receive so many messages from people around the world thanking me.” Given its success, Déborah decided to organise “Yoga with Debo”, classes open to everyone on her Facebook page.

“A lot of people took to their mats during lockdown to calm their minds and lift their spirits. Yoga brings a connection and good vibes, whether in a studio or through a computer screen. For some, an online class was an easier first step on the yoga path than entering a real studio,” Belgian yoga teacher in France Greet De Ryck told us.

London-based yoga teacher Mary Smiley confirms the growing interest. “Since the lockdown, people come to practice and resurface after many years from all corners the world,” she told us. Mary is one of the yoga teachers who shared their wellbeing tips with us below

These tips may come in useful at the dawn of post-COVID’s new normal, where European governments seek to open up their societies again, while guaranteeing citizens’ health and wellbeing.The World Health Organization urges their member states to help their citizens reduce physical inactivity, which is among the top ten leading causes of death worldwide.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed also recognised the benefits of yoga in a wider context. “While change can start within ourselves, observances such as the International Day of Yoga have the potential to lift yoga from an individual well-being practice to joint, global action,” she said at last year’s celebration. “By practicing yoga, we can promote values that inspire a peaceful, environmental stewardship for the betterment of society and the earth.”

This year we celebrate the sixth edition.

Inspired? Take part in one of our yoga sessions!

– The global virtual event on Friday from 3-4:30pm live on http://webtv.un.org/.

– In Belgium, UNRIC supports the Brussels Yoga Day event, taking place underneath the Atomium, http://brusselsyogaday.be/?lang=en, in collaboration with The Smurfs, ambassadors of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to promote SDG3 (health and wellbeing).

 

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