Mental Health Awareness: Yoga/Mindfulness

Since its inception in 2015, International Day of Yoga is celebrated annually on June 21. An international
day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). This year, the
2021 theme was “Yoga for Well-Being.” This couldn’t be any more relevant as the COVID-19 pandemic
has exacerbated psychological suffering and mental health problems.

According to a recent published article in the Harvard Review: “A regular yoga practice appears to
correlate with increased wellbeing, including better sleep, better body awareness, weight loss, and
greater happiness. By improving mindfulness, it simultaneously helps to boost compassion, gratitude and
"flow" states, all of which contribute to greater happiness. Early evidence suggests that yoga may even
slow aging on the cellular level, perhaps through its stress-busting effects.”

As a Christian, yoga has enhanced my spiritual journey, giving me tools to connect with God on a deeper
level. The most taught ethical standards of yoga revolve around Yamas & Niyamas. These are ways of
acting and abstaining, which create a moral life:

Yamas: Niyamas:
Ahimsa = Nonviolence Saucha = Purity
Satya = Truthfulness Santosha=Contentment
Asteya = Non-stealing Tapas = Self-discipline
Brahmacharya = Non-excess Svadyaya = Self-Study
Aparigraha=Nonpossessiveness Ishvara Pranidhana=Surrender

As we examine these ethical standards (the first two limbs of the eight-limbed path set forth by Patanjali),
they follow closely the teachings of Christ. There is a bridge between Christian faith & the practice of
yoga. If you are interested, I encourage you to read “Yogadevotion: Practicing in the Presence” written
by Cindy Senarighi & Heidi Green. Cindy is an ordained pastor in the ELCA and had a 25-year career as
a psychiatric nurse. Heidi is a cancer survivor, retired from a 20-year career in public policy & currently
has a lay healing ministry in the Episcopal Church.

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