Summer Sun and Salutations

Y ou’ve seen it throughout your social media feed, you hear about a friend’s awesome class over a cup of coffee, or perhaps you pass by a window while one is in session. It’s the workout that has dominated the nation for decades, and the world for even longer: Yoga. The definition of yoga is […]

Celebrating International Yoga Day in Dayton


Courthouse Square will be one of many gathering spaces for International Yoga Day on June 21. No admission fee, and the public is encouraged to attend. Be there dressed to stretch and with your favorite yoga mat.

By Sarah Monroe

You’ve seen it throughout your social media feed, you hear about a friend’s awesome class over a cup of coffee, or perhaps you pass by a window while one is in session. It’s the workout that has dominated the nation for decades, and the world for even longer: Yoga. The definition of yoga is wordy, and for those of us who are weary of new things it might seem a bit overwhelming, so I will give it to you simply like this: Yoga is a physical practice. Yoga is a mental practice. Yoga is a spiritual practice. For you, it might mean only one of these things, a combination thereof, or so much more than what I could ever find the words for.

On June 21, the Dayton area, along with the rest of the world will be celebrating International Yoga Day. It is a period of time set aside to share, enjoy, and reflect on all that is yoga. This can be achieved by finding a few moments to savor a simple personal practice, removing yourself to the silence of meditation, or sharing the day within the kinship of those who appreciate yoga, and all that it is. As long as you recognize the day for what it is, there is no one-way or wrong-way to join in on the revelry. 

What is International Yoga day, you ask? In September of 2014, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, spoke to the United Nations about the idea of proclaiming June 21 as a day to celebrate the universal connection that yoga possesses, by saying “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” With the support of 177 Member States out of 193, the United Nations adopted International Yoga Day with record-breaking support, and June 21 has been recognized as this auspicious day ever since. 

The specific day chosen also holds significance as well, as it lands on that of the Solstice. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, the Summer Solstice is the longest day of our year. This is where the sun sets later than any other day, and also marks the beginning of summer. It is a celebration that has held deep importance for many cultures for over a milenia, and signifies the triumph of light over dark. In the Southern Hemisphere, where winter is currently underway, it marks the shortest day of the year. This day signifies the rebirth of the sun, as all of the following days begin to grow longer after this point.

The celebration of International Yoga Day will be prominent in Dayton. You can’t throw a stone without finding a studio that is offering classes all day. One such place is Day Yoga Studio, who will be offering classes at all three of their spaces that are located in downtown Dayton, Vandalia, and their newest studio in Beavercreek. In observance of this special occasion, Day Yoga will also be offering a free class at 6:00 p.m. in Courthouse Square. All are welcome, but don’t forget to bring your yoga mat. Day Yoga has been hosting the free event in celebration of International Yoga Day for 3 years, but has celebrated the Solstice for even longer. “We came up with the idea to do it at Courthouse Square,” Devon Schmidt, owner of Day Yoga Studios, tells me. “Because it’s not only a good central downtown urban location, but also with it being the Summer Solstice and celebrating this idea of lightness and summer, it makes sense to do an outdoor practice.”

I had the opportunity to join Day Yoga for last years celebration in the square, and I must tell you that there is just something about all of the elements that envelop you while you’re there. When our practice started, the sun had begun its slow descent, creating long shadows of our bodies on the ground as we moved. The wind whipped past the trees above us, the leaves a frenzy of song and dance. The towering buildings of rock and metal made by humankind surrounded us, the noises of life were at all four corners of the city block. The energy was, in a word, magic.   

Other studios will be holding classes throughout the day, such as Speakeasy Yoga, which has heated classes at their location on East 3rd Street and unheated classes at their new studio on Wayne Ave. House of Aum in Yellow Springs is holding their West African Drum Series followed by a Waxing Moon Flow that evening. As far as the eye can see, all other studios will be holding sessions. There is Ignite Yoga, as well as Hot Yoga & Wellness Center, which are located in Centerville, Indigo Yoga in Beavercreek, Om Yoga Studio and Yoga XTC in Dayton, and Eden Yoga in Sugarcreek. But wait, hold on while I take a breath…there’s also Inner Dance Yoga in Oakwood, Soham Yoga in Miamisburg, Your Method Yoga in Springboro, Kai Yoga in Fairborn, and almost every YMCA and fitness studio has a class to offer. Forgive me if I did not mention everyone, but the sheer amount of locations tells you something. It is a practice that is wanted. It is a practice that is needed.   

So really, what is yoga? On the surface it is a physical activity that helps put you in sync with your breath, but it can also help ease your mind and round out your spiritual practice, regardless of what religion you follow. How, you may ask? When you participate in a teacher-led class, whether in person or via a recording, you will hear a very mantra-like phrase: Inhale, exhale. “Inhale arms up, exhale forward fold. Inhale halfway lift, exhale forward fold…” The practice will continue on and on in such a manner. This rhythmic instruction is to help keep you breathing, which we all have been guilty of not doing while working out, but to also guide you into finding your center of focus and simply slow down. This can move us into our own state of meditation, our breath clearing out the noise that is banging around in our head. I’m sure you could ask 50 different people how to explain yoga, and you’d get 50 different answers. We each have our own interpretation of what it is, and that is okay.

The scientific proof is there, too. A study funded by The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a federal agency, said that “People with chronic low-back pain found that participants who practiced Iyengar yoga had significantly less disability, pain, and depression after 6 months.” Iyengar is a form of yoga that utilizes props such as blocks and straps to bring alignment back to the body. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study, saying that “Overall, the studies comparing the effects of yoga and exercise seem to indicate that, in both healthy and diseased populations, yoga may be as effective or better than exercise at improving a variety of health-related outcome measures.”

With all of the studios in the Dayton area, you would be hard-pressed to not find a class that fits your needs. “The practice is very diverse,” Devon of Day Yoga tells me when describing the celebration of yoga. “Anybody can really do yoga as long as they can breathe.” Her studios offer almost every type of yoga imaginable, from slow flow to hot, and now aerial as well. “All types of bodies can do yoga,” she says. “I really do believe that there is a yoga for everybody out there. You just have to find it.” And find it you must. Every person you come across has a different personality and sometimes personalities do not match. If you walk into a class and don’t feel comfortable, do not despair, the right fit is out there.

The best advice to heed if you are new to yoga or a long time practitioner is this: “Leave your ego at the door.” You cannot compare yourself to someone who has had 5 years, 5 months, or even 5 days of practice under their belt. That might be more time than you have even been on your mat and the idea that you have to compare yourself to anybody else is unfair to yourself. Our bodies are a big factor in that, too. Our bones can literally keep us from doing certain moves, and that is okay. We all have to start somewhere and as one of my favorite mantras would suggest, “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” I can guarantee that the people you join in most any practice are more concerned about their own form than to pay any attention to you. Unless you fart, then just giggle about it and move on.

The point is that the practice is yours and yours alone. Every time you do it, your body will feel better, your muscles stronger, and you will amaze yourself with the results. “Don’t be scared of yoga,” Devon says. “If you keep up somewhat of a regular practice at least a few times a week, the benefits are just amazing and I feel like I’m living proof of that.”

Pardon me while I go celebrate with some yoga.

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Sarah Monroe, a native to the Gem City, is currently writing her first novel. Reach DCP writer Sarah Monroe at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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