This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 20/06/2018.
Croydon Peace Festival preview: why I’m running Croydon’s first ever-open-air yogathon
This Saturday’s Peace and Well-being Festival in Park Hill Park is the finale of Croydon’s first Festival of Peace, which is taking place this week.
Its organisers wish to invite the people of Croydon to a ‘cross-cultural, cross-arts, interfaith celebration of peace’. As the world remembers the centenary of the end of the First World War in 1918, the festival makes a powerful, colourful, vibrant declaration of peace with a programme including music and choral singing, mindfulness workshops, a photography exhibition and the opening of Croydon’s Peace Garden this coming Saturday in Park Hill Park at the Peace and Well-being Festival.
I am delighted to offer a free mass-participation yoga session at this event, starting at 11:30 am on the main stage in Park Hill Park. It’s a first for Croydon, and also the perfect opportunity for us to mark International Yoga Day. This year it took place on Thursday 21st June, the first day of summer, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.
In 2014 Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India addressed the United Nations and said:
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help improve wellbeing.”
This is where the wellspring of well-being resides
And so, this coming Saturday, I’ll be honoured to lead the Croydon Yogathon, part of a global celebration of the many health benefits, original intent and deeper meaning of yoga, along with other local yoga teachers and their students.
This is an invitation to you, regardless of your social demography, to explore and experience what it can mean for us individually and collectively to integrate yoga into our daily life, beyond the physicality and feel good of stretching and relaxing.
The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, (pronounced ‘yug’) which means ‘to yoke, unite or join together’. Yoga postures are called asanas, meaning ‘seat’ or ‘manner of sitting’. Yoga breathing exercises are called ‘pranayama’ from the Sanskrit word ‘prana’, meaning ‘life force’ and ‘ayama’ meaning ‘control’. While the physical aspect of doing yoga postures probably makes up 80% of the time spent in class, it’s that last 20% of the time spent on breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation that is where the nectar, the honey, the wellspring of wellbeing resides.
As we develop peace within ourselves, we approach life from a place of calm, centred ease
The traditional definition of yoga is union. We distract our minds away from our usual worries and thoughts with the ‘doing’ of yoga and get rewarded with the experience of ‘being’ in yoga – a union of mind, body and spirit. The more we practise the feeling of wholeness the more we are able to take that feeling with us everywhere we go.
As we learn how to develop peace within ourselves, we are able to approach everything else in our life from a place of calm, centred ease. In part this is due to the deep breathing exercises that cause a relaxation response in our mind and body. The squeeze and soak effect of bending, twisting, stretching and flexing our muscles during the physical postures releases tension, toxins and deeply held emotions so that when we come to the relaxation and meditation we feel quiet, cleansed, calm and clear-minded.
Yoga, deep breathing, relaxation and meditation are processes that give us access to the emotional resources that lie buried under the busyness of life – kindness, patience and understanding. The more readily we can access our inner resources, the easier it will be to navigate the ebbs and flows of daily life.
I would love the yogathon to increase the number of people practising yoga in Croydon
Practicing yoga is not just about being good at yoga; it’s about taking care of yourself. The results are incremental, the benefits cumulative. A little bit goes a long way.
“Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and to
endure what cannot be cured.” – B.K.S Iyengar
I would love the yogathon to help increase the number of people practising yoga in Croydon. Take the initiative and start with a few yoga postures a day. A few minutes of conscious breathing will quieten your mind and help you to concentrate and stay focused, making you more productive in your day. Long deep breathing can reduce anxiety and help you to relax enough to get a better quality of sleep. Yoga makes you feel alive and vital, energised with an inner feeling of calm, centred confidence.
“Yoga is a light, which once lit, will never dim.
The better your practice, the brighter the flame.” – B.K.S Iyengar