Medical experts on Thursday spoke of the many benefits of yoga, as practitioners in Nigeria on Thursday joined others across the world to celebrate the International Day of Yoga.
In December 2014, the United Nations proclaimed June 21 as the International Day of Yoga, with the aim to raise awareness of the many benefits of practicing yoga and in recognition of its universal appeal.
Organised by the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations, the theme for this year’s celebration of the Day is “Yoga for Peace.”
Since the proclamation, the International Day of Yoga has continued to grow in popularity as the profile of the practice continues to rise as more than just an exercise but as a great tool for staying healthy.
Yoga has been in existence for over 5000 years, with more than 100 different forms in existence. It is described as the ‘union of mind, body and spirit,’ and addresses the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions towards an overall harmonious state of being.
PHYSICAL, MENTAL BENEFITS Of YOGA
Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or discipline which originated in ancient India. This form of tri-exercise is seen as one of the most relatable exercises to ease chronic pain, reduce blood pressure, insomnia and a host of other non-communicable diseases.
It is also a weight loss therapy, which aids increased muscle strength and tone, and improves respiration energy and vitality. According to experts, it helps the practitioner maintain a balanced metabolism and is also a means of protection from injury.
Asides from the physical benefits, one of the best benefits of yoga is how it helps a person manage stress, a condition known to have devastating effects on the body and mind. Stress can reveal itself in many ways, including back or neck pain, sleeping problems, headaches, drug abuse, and an inability to concentrate. Yoga can also be very effective in developing coping skills and reaching a more positive outlook on life.
Yoga In Nigeria
It is, however, an underestimated form of well-being in some parts of the world. In Nigeria, it is often thought to be a ‘fake and evil’ foreign practice as people tend to lay emphasis on its imitation of the spiritual practices of Indians and perceive it as quite expensive and irrelevant to fitness and well-being.
Theresa Ugalahia, one of the few certified psychiatrists in Nigeria, said people are beginning to appreciate the benefits of the practice in the country.
“Yoga is double-pronged and improves both the mental and physical state,” she told Premium Times. “It is unique for its type of relaxation in cajoling the mind to focus, more like a form of retracting to self.”
Mrs Ugalahia said although Yoga used to be seen as an act of worship or spirituality by Indians and Buddhist, it has evolved in recent years. “Nigerians are beginning to see benefits in spite of the religious beliefs attached to Yoga.”
The psychiatrist further explained that yoga can be used as a form of therapy for drug addicts because it enhances natural opioids which is a subtle means of easing pain and enhancing euphoria. “Yoga should be a general recommendation as part of the rehabilitation therapy for drug addicts who seek a high by consuming dangerous substances, a high that yoga can give them by enhancing euphoric hormones,” she said.
She added that yoga’s incorporation of meditation and breathing can help improve a person’s mental well-being.
“Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness; increases body awareness; relieves chronic stress patterns; relaxes the mind; centres attention; and sharpens concentration.” She said “body and self-awareness are particularly beneficial because they can help with early detection of physical problems and allow for early preventive action.”
Oyinye Ugwueke, a Yoga Instructor and CEO of Olifestyleholistic, is one of the few certified Yoga Instructors in Nigeria. She was the official instructor at the just concluded ‘Yoga for harmony and peace’ programme organised by the High Commission of India In Abuja to mark the 4th International Day of Yoga.
She said yoga is an important therapy for healing the soul, mind and body. “Yoga trains us to systematically sharpen and sensitise our emotions and consciously expand and diffuse the overtones of such sensitisation,” she said.
Describing some of yoga poses, she said “Asana and Savasana are steady and pleasant postures which produce mental equilibrium and prevent fickleness of mind as it brings steadiness, health and lightness of limb. A steady practice of Asana develops the ability, balance, endurance and great vitality that aids resistance to depression and mental instability.”
She describes Yoga as “the perfect therapy” for people recovering from the thought of suicide, domestic violence, drug addiction, war and other crises.
She, however, further confessed that it has been an uphill task convincing Nigerians of the need for Yoga as a tool to tackle both mental and physical challenges.
Since the United Nations declared June 21 as International Day of Yoga, the celebration of the practice is increasing across different the world.
In 2017, India broke the Guinness World Record for hosting a yoga class with over 54,522 participants of different nationalities. Times Square in New York hosted a similar class in 2017 with thousands of people celebrating the ancient discipline. The yogamarket in the U.S. is touted to be worth $16 billion.
This year, celebrations are taking place around the nations of the world.