It's no secret that yoga has taken the West by storm, outpacing the growth and expansion in its native India by many times.
As it expands, the forms are rapidly changing and cross-pollinating with other mind-body-spirit disciplines. Whole new schools of yogic practice are springing up every year. Traditional kirtan music is now sharing the space with hard-rockin' classes (I've even heard country). Yogic innovators are combining yoga with dance, rock-climbing and even surfing. Practitioners from celebrities to cab drivers to schoolteachers to executives are discovering its power to unify body, mind, and soul and create an oasis of peace in the midst of intense modern lives.
It's probably the most accelerated time of evolution for any spiritual practice in history. After thousands of years of slow, moderate evolution, yoga has gone global and diversified forms and penetrated other cultures at shocking speed (including places you might not expect, such as China!)
That's why it's so heartening that the United Nations has created the first annual International Day of Yoga this Sunday, June 21, which we at The Shift Network are celebrating with an 8-hour free global video broadcast featuring the world's top yogis, from Deepak Chopra to Shiva Rea, as well as many hours of footage from the banks of the Ganges at the the International Yoga Festival. As part of the Day, there are hundreds of local yoga events joining in globally synchronized practices that span the globe.
As we mark this important new milestone in yoga's globalization, it's vital that we not only explore new forms but also honor the ancient roots and the millennia-old wisdom traditions that form the core of yogic practice -- including the more concentrative and meditative practices that are the ultimate vehicle for spiritual realization.
As we learn about the ancient roots and advanced practices of yoga alongside the hip, trendy, modern expressions, we open to a full-spectrum appreciation for all that yoga brings us: a holy view of the world.
Ultimately, yoga is more than just a spiritual practice. I see it as medicine for the unique ailments of our modern times.
Yoga literally means "union" and in an era of fragmented attention and sound bites, the medicine of integrated breath, relaxed body, and a palpable sense of connection with nature has become all the more essential.
We've entered a truly global era economically, technologically, and culturally but we can't fully do so until we catch up on the level of our consciousness. Yoga helps us create a more relaxed, balanced, and whole relationship with our bodies, emotions, and minds, while inviting a spacious sense of interconnection with all of life.
Yoga allows us to FEEL global while at the same time LIVE more fully in our body. It also helps us to engage in positive social change from a place of peaceful collaboration rather than angry polarization. It leads us to be more harmonious in our advocacy for cultural evolution as we act in a more loving, centered, and generous way.
As we expand our awareness, we feel the plight of the world more deeply because we also have built more capacity to feel all of the subtle sensations, emotions, and tensions in our body.
Our bodies become a practice ground for how we relate to the world. As we incarnate more of our full awareness in our cells, we discover subtle currents of joy and pleasure that are always present. And that, in turn, helps us become more effective peacemakers for the world.
In short, yoga is helping to create a global shift to a culture of oneness that is dissolving boundaries and infusing us all with love.
And THAT is the foundation for creating a future we can truly be proud of.
As we approach our world's first Yoga Day, I offer a deep pranam to the luminous beings who created, evolved, sustained, and spread this extraordinary way of life.
If you want to deepen your understanding of the ancient roots, modern innovations, and social impact of yoga, I encourage you to join us in celebrating the first annual International Day of Yoga and turn your life into a practice that invites more clarity, love, and bliss.
HuffPost Lifestyle is a daily newsletter that will make you happier and healthier — one email at a time. Learn more