For those who do and don’t know me, I recently completed a yoga teacher training program. I’ve only been practicing yoga for about two years, but in those two years I felt like it was a constant in my life when everything else was changing. It was something I could go back to, something that was always there for me. Little did I know I would find this connection between yoga and environmental sustainability, making it very clear that it was just natural to have these two aspects in my life. It was “meant to be,” if you will. ~
Call me a tree-loving yogi or a hippie-dippie environmentalist, but the practice of yoga and the environment have a lot more in common than you’d think. Yes, I do like trees and yoga, and tree pose is one of my favorite poses and yes, my go-to “silly” picture gesture are two peace fingers, but connecting the dots between these two subjects can also bring a lot more insight to the word “sustainable.”
Ok so how are they related? Well, here are three yoga philosophies that can be applied to the subject of environmental sustainability:
1. Feeling Grounded (Root Chakra)
I think feeling more grounded is something we all strive toward; to feel a little more balanced, centered, and like we have our shit together. It’s an idea that gets thrown around in yoga a lot because it comes from the first chakra. If you’ve never heard of the chakra system, it’s an organization of energy down the center of your body. There are seven chakras (or balls of energy as I like to think of them) that are located from the base of your spine to the crown of your head. Each chakra represents something different and the goal is to have harmonious energy going up and down the center of your chakras so nothing gets stuck in one area.
Did I lose you already? But wait, let me just explain the first chakra (muladhara,) which is the root chakra. The element is earth, so there’s already a literal connection. When this chakra is balanced, we feel safe, have a strong foundation, and confirm our right to exist. A physical and mental practice can help to achieve this feeling. Every time I lower all the way down to the mat from plank pose to the count of 5, a strong connection to the earth is emphasized. (To the count of 7 is just pushing it, but who am I kidding, I’m probably going to make all my future students do that.)
Whether you practice yoga or not, the idea of being emotionally grounded is something we can all relate to, but sometimes we take being physically grounded for granted. If we have a place to live and food to eat, then we don’t have to worry as much, but we hardly ever think about the physical nature and foundation that allows us to sit, stand, or walk. While we’re responsible for finding comfort in our own bodies and paying rent on time, we’re also responsible for the grass we walk on, the air we breathe, and the water we drink. It truly is up to us if we want to keep this planet’s natural resources available and beautiful. Without it, we won’t have a proper and sustainable foundation to live on.
2. Non-Violence (Ahimsa)
This is the first ethical principle of yoga and the term, “non-violence” is applied physically, mentally, and emotionally. To me, this not only means being kind to yourself and other people, but also to the planet. This idea is the very essence of this blog and my life. When you learn to rid your thoughts of doubt, judgment, and negativity, then you can start directing your energy to fully supporting others, including the environment. The earth is a big place and it makes it hard to visualize the damage we’ve done and are currently doing because we feel very small. Although recycling or turning off lights are accessible ways of being eco-friendly, it can also feel like it makes the least difference for some people. The truth is, a small negative or positive act can contribute to a bigger negative or positive result. So choose the positive route and go with small acts of kindness!
3. Energy Conservation (Brahmacharya)
This is the fourth inner principle of yoga, but the more common meaning of brahmacharya is energy conservation. On the yoga mat, this means not spending all your energy or efforts into a specific pose or in one place. This can make you feel imbalanced and worn out before the practice is over. This has a similar meaning off the mat, but you’re using your energy wisely in terms of work/career, relationships, and personal thoughts. If you’re worrying or thinking too much or spending a lot of energy on one thing, then you’re most likely compromising other kinds of energy that need more attention. This idea also literally relates to the environment and the most obvious example that comes to my head is a blackout. So much electricity is being used that ultimately, it’s all gone and no one has any electricity. These are never fun, which is why conservation is important especially when it comes to large scale natural resources like rainforests and oceans. We don’t want to use more energy than we need because when we do, we won’t have enough in the end and that’s unsustainable.
I emphasize on having a “sustainable” life because to me, that word stems beyond the context of the environment. It’s about how you can bring sustainability in all aspects of your life, like your relationships, friendships, career, and personal views. So to recap…
- While you work toward feeling internally grounded, also appreciate feeling physically grounded.
- Be kind to yourself, other people, and the environment.
- Use your energy wisely physically, mentally, and in your environment.
These are all practices you can take on and off your mat. Remember, “Take care of yourself, take care of the planet.”