Saturday January 26, 2008 is set for Yoga Day USA, an annual nationwide celebration designed to raise awareness about the physical benefits of yoga by offering free or reduced cost classes and workshops in communities across the country. In its ninth year, Yoga Day USA is sponsored by the Yoga Alliance, the organization that outlines standards for yoga teachers and yoga schools and maintains registries of all teachers and schools that meet these standards.
Yoga Day USA is a way for studios and teachers to provide an experience of yoga in a way that is accessible to all parts of the community at a time when many people are evaluating their current state of wellbeing and health. This year Yoga Day USA is focusing on the stress reduction factor of the practice of hatha yoga, and it’s wide reaching benefits of improved health and mental functioning.
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The organizers of the event support that you can begin to reduce the effects of stress after only one yoga class. Research conducted by Thomas Jefferson University in partnership with the Yoga Research Society shows a significant decrease in cortisol production, the “stress hormone,” after practicing yoga.
Critics of the event site that the Yoga Day USA event distills a very intricate, detailed practice of merging the mind and body with the spirit into simply a form of exercise, while omitting the more authentic and esoteric aspects of the practice. This criticism seems to be more and more prevalent as yoga’s popularity grows in the West. But, as a practitioner of yoga for over a decade and a teacher, I understand that so many of us come to the practice first for the physical benefits. The deeper meaning of yoga begins to unfold as the superficial physical and mental issues begin to loosen their grip. So many people can benefit from the practice, if only they would walk in the door. So it seems that the strategy of Yoga Day USA supports the practice as a means of health and healing, so that people can choose to deepen their understanding of the practice as they continue. Therefore, it is up to the teachers to understand and sustain the authenticity of the practice, and to the students to commit to the practice long enough to uncover these truths.
Yoga Alliance encourages students to find teachers who hold at least a 200 hour educational certification; and maybe in this way, supports the deeper understanding and teachings of yoga through the standards that it endorses.
Will you be participating in Yoga Day USA?