Article exclusively written for sustainablelafayette.org by Jessie Mari
Environmental sustainability is not normally a term you would see marketed by yoga studios. Modern-day yoga is largely promoted as a practice to improve oneself on the physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Ensuring ecological balance, however, is actually a lot more relevant to the yogic lifestyle than one might think. The original teachings of yoga are established with ethical practices in mind, and these apply to the way we treat the environment. Practicing non-violence The ultimate goal of yoga is to cleanse the mind and the body in order to attain enlightenment. Yes, the strength-building poses are important, but yoga is a much broader discipline that entails ethical principles one can use to guide their daily life. One of these principles is ahimsa, or non-violence. Yoga researcher Rina Deshpande described the concept of non-violence as “absence of injury,” and as humans, it is our duty to minimize and end suffering. It sounds like a loaded responsibility, but small acts of kindness can go a long way in practicing ahimsa. A regular meditation practice is one method, as it is considered self-care — something that is important in serving others. Meanwhile, health writer Jane Adamson reminds us to offer gratitude inside and outside our mat practice. By uttering “namaste,” we recognize that others have value and are therefore worthy of our respect and care. In terms of our relationship with nature, we can practice this concept in many different ways. For instance, you might think that refusing a dish with meat is an insignificant gesture, but it can cause a ripple effect on the planet and its inhabitants. Eating less meat or adopting a vegetarian diet minimizes harm caused on animals. A decreased demand on animal products also means increased availability of grains that can go toward feeding the hungry. These acts of non-violence, when pooled together, ultimately create a big and positive impact on environmental sustainability. Letting go of attachments Another important principle that can be implemented in our treatment of nature is aparigraha, or non-possessiveness. Sonima clarifies that this does not equate to an ascetic lifestyle, in which you let go of all worldly possessions and “live in a cave.” In a less abstract sense, being non-possessive means evaluating the way we ascribe meaning to things and consume them. Buying the latest gadgets to keep up with trends is one example. Our discarded items end up in landfills, or worse, polluting our mountains, oceans, and even cities. Last year, Moraga Skate Park dealt with a bad plastic problem, as disposable water bottles and cups plagued the park and made the area less enjoyable for people. Though community action was successful in getting rid of the park’s plastic, it’s not the case for the rest of the world. GreenBiz reports that microplastics from yoga pants were found in the ocean, harming marine life. What’s more, people who consume seafood can be at risk of ingesting these tiny plastic particles that were originally in their trendy clothing. It’s important to remember that the concept of non-possessiveness opposes the idea of buying new yoga outfits regularly. Stick with the clothes you already have to conserve natural resources, and avoid contributing to the worrying plastic pollution in our environment. What yoga teaches us is that we are all connected in some way, and we need to be mindful of our actions. Small acts like changing your diet, refusing single-use plastics, and opting for sustainable clothing have a profound effect on the environment. We depend on the environment for resources, and it depends on us to take care of it.