In yoga traditions, our connection to the Earth is an important part of the practice. The word yoga is derived from sanskrit yuj, which means “union”(1). This “union” mentioned so often in yoga texts extends beyond our physical bodies. It encompasses the metaphysical and natural worlds including other people and living things. That’s part of why an essential aspect of practicing yoga is caring deeply about our planet and its inhabitants. To be a yogi is to be an environmentalist.
This concept of unity with our planet can guide our yoga practices and the way we live our lives. With a bit of effort and practice, we can all embrace being environmentally mindful and develop some beneficial habits. In this post, we’ll explore environmentalism as an expression of yoga ethics. We’ll also share easy tips to help reduce your carbon footprint and adopt sustainable ways.
YOGIC ETHICS and ENVIRONMENTALISM
Environmental stewardship is essential to our practice of yoga’s core ethical principles (yamas and niyamas). These ethical rules were codified in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a foundational philosophical yogic text (2). Modern yogis can use these yamas as guides to navigate our planet’s environmental challenges.
AHIMSA: NON-VIOLENCE/ ACTIVE LOVE
Ahimsa, the first yama, teaches us to do no harm. It is the yama most apparently connected to conservation. We can attempt to make lifestyle choices that will do the least harm to our planet whenever possible. Each of our actions has an impact on the environment. Everyday choices like what we eat, buy, utilize, and how we dispose of it can impact our bodies, minds, communities, and our planet.
For guidance on how to minimize your carbon footprint and potentially improve your health, check out our Eating For The Planet article and our Conscious Eating Series. They will help you learn how to build environmental ethical and mindful eating habits into your daily routine through:
- Meal planning to reduce waste
- Optimal food storage methods
- Zero- waste shopping
- Yogic values of food
- Navigating food labels
- Eating seasonal
- Understanding food sources
- Simple urban gardening
- Advantages of a plant based diet
Also, get inspired to cook healthier with Yoga District’s wonderful vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free recipes.
Another way to practice ahimsa is to be a conscious consumer! Learn in our Conscious Consumption Guide how to shop sustainably (shrinking the ecological footprint of your purchases). Additionally, if you care about decreasing your consumerism (being more environmentally sustainable) then our Upcycling Guide has a lot of helpful tips.
You can also check out our Recycling Guide and Energy Saving Guide for more suggestions on how to practice environmental ahimsa. Of course, recycling and living greener are always noble actions but not always easy tasks to accomplish. If you keep trying and practicing then it will get easier!
Satya is another yama, and it teaches us to live honestly. Living with satya challenges a person to engage with the truth every day. It inspires us to find our voices and speak up for what we believe in when necessary.
To live your truth, you can reflect on your values. Let that steer you to how you can best serve our planet. Is it through wanting to protect green spaces? Or reaching out to your congress member to help enact needed policy changes? If yes, then our Climate Policy Outreach Guide provides useful suggestions. Or maybe you are interested in helping in a more localized way, like community gardens or other forms of mutual aid.
ASTEYA: NON-STEALING and BRAHMACHARYA: RIGHT USE OF ENERGY
Practicing the yamas of asteya and brahmacharya on an environmental level means being conscious of our use of the Earth’s resources. Also, these yamas can guide us toward the right use of our energy in our efforts to live greener.
Earth’s resources are to be used thoughtfully. They should be shared among its inhabitants as fairly as possible. On a personal level, consider which environmental efforts you want to direct most of your energy towards for maximum impact.
APARIGRAHA: NON- POSSESSIVENESS
We can detach ourselves from consumerism through the yama of aparigraha. One way to practice aparigraha is to practice mindful eating, knowing when we’ve had enough and what foods we truly need. For suggestions on how to practice aparigraha environmentally then check out any applicable guides (conscious consumption, upcycling, recycling, etc.) in the ahimsa section.
Our planet is so valuable it deserves more than just one day of recognition! Thanks for being part of this community that works to find ways to honor the planet daily.
- Yoga Definition, https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/4/yoga
- The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2526
– Charon K.