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Celebrating the 10th International Yoga Day in The Gambia

My Magazine 2024/06
1 min
Author: Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
June is the month of International Yoga Day, a day dedicated to recognizing yoga's significance and benefits while spreading global awareness. Adopted by the United Nations in December 2014, the first International Yoga Day was celebrated on June 21, 2015. This year's theme, "Yoga for Women Empowerment," focuses on promoting women's well-being and advancing global health and peace. Yoga serves as a powerful tool for empowering women and addressing their physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual needs.

Yoga is a holistic practice that guides individuals toward balance, peace, and harmony in life. The immediate benefits of yoga can be experienced through practising asanas and pranayama (breath work), which calm and relax the mind and body. To access yoga's deeper benefits, one must integrate it into daily life through actions and thoughts that embody restraint, detachment, selflessness, and patient observation free of judgment. Consistent practice and study can help overcome the sense of self, leading to a connection with a larger universal being.

Celebration of International Yoga Day is a platform to raise awareness of the benefits of yoga emphasized through certain themes, to inform people about the history and cultural background and heritage of yoga, to clear any misconceptions about yoga that are widely spread, and to encourage people of all background, ages, and capability to practice yoga.

Yoga's origins trace back approximately 5,000 years to the Vedic period, with early references in the ancient Hindu text, the Rigveda. Significant ancient texts like the Upanishads, dating back 3,000 years, explore the essence of yoga, emphasizing self-realization, the nature of reality, and the union of individual and universal consciousness. The Bhagavad Gita, another philosophical text believed to be written around 2,000 years ago, highlights bhakti yoga and karma yoga, focusing on devotion and selflessness. During the same period, Patanjali's Yoga Sutras provided a systematic guide to yoga practice, describing it through the Eightfold Path (or Eight Limbs), encompassing ethics, physical practice (asana and pranayama), meditation, and ultimately, samadhi (union with universal consciousness).

Modern yoga often stems from Hatha yoga, which emphasizes physical postures and breath control, developed between the 9th and 11th centuries. Hatha yoga was introduced to the West in the 19th/20th centuries by Swami Vivekananda. Today, various styles of yoga, including well-established ones like Ashtanga and Iyengar, as well as modern styles like Vinyasa and Yin Yoga, are practised worldwide.

It's essential to understand that yoga's origins and development in India should not be confused with religion. Though closely connected with ancient religious texts, language, and spiritual chanting, yoga's ultimate goal is self-realization and unity with universal consciousness. Yoga complements all religions that seek spiritual understanding, helping individuals develop control over their mind and body and develop their spiritual understanding.

International Yoga Day in The Gambia has been celebrated since 2015, supported by the Indian Embassy of Dakar, the Indian Honorary Consulate, the Indian Social and Cultural Association (ISCA), and various local yoga teachers. This year, we invite the public to join us in celebrating the 10th International Yoga Day.

Let's come together and practice yoga!


Melissa Kuwahata Daswani
Founder, Yoga Bliss Gambia and Yoga Bliss Creations
Melissa Daswani is a professional yoga teacher trained and accredited in Hatha Yoga from Rishikesh, India. She was introduced to yoga in the early adolesce by her mother who often practised yoga at their home and still continues to practice to date. Melissa started to indulge in yoga with a keen interest in her 20’s after researching the benefits of practising yoga. In order to expand her knowledge and practice, she initially enrolled on official training in India during 2009. Her initial stint in yoga teaching began in 2012 in Togo, followed by expanding in the Gambia from 2016. Melissa’s style of teaching incorporates the fundamental and crucial steps of yoga called Hatha yoga, which encompasses the basis of all other styles of yoga. Melissa believes that every individual has something to gain from Yoga which is not limited to mental, physical or spiritual. Yoga is not a religion but more a spiritual exercise as well as a practice that can universally be incorporated into your daily routine. Melissa offers regular weekly classes in Fajara, the Gambia, which is open to all levels. She also runs a weekly beach yoga class which is very refreshing and energizing. It’s her love and dedication towards teaching which allows her the opportunity to share the essence of yoga and its benefits to people from all walks of life. Whether you reside in the Gambia or a visitor in The Gambia, Yoga Bliss Gambia would love to welcome you to their next class.

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