Well, plenty actually. And this is the perfect time to write about that connection.
One, it’s International Blog Action Day, when bloggers around the world write about one topic that matters – this year the environment.
And two, next Saturday October 24th is International Climate Action Day, also happening worldwide.
Here in Wellington, there will be meditation at Frank Kitts Park all day, and The Big Stretch – a free yoga class at 3pm. We want to get as many yogis to the free yoga class as possible to show our support for the environment.
So what does yoga have to do with the environment?
Remember yoga isn’t just about twisting your body into cool shapes – it’s an entire path of living.
And part of that path includes the way that a yogi chooses to behave towards other people, and towards herself – the yamas and the niyamas.
The first yama is ahimsa – non-violence. In the yogic world view, ahimsa has a broad application of non-violence. It means not harming other people or other sentient beings. Not harming ones self. Not harming the environment. Tolerance even for that which we dislike. Not speaking that which, even though truthful, would injure others.
There has been extended debate in the yoga world about whether or not a true yogi can eat meat while adhering to ahimsa, but it’s worth pointing out that even vegetables need to be “killed” in order to be eaten, and they are sentient beings.
So applying ahisma to our life means that we are first conscious of all of our actions and the intention with which they are done.
It is possible to take the life of a sentient being with great respect for the sacredness of life, and not in a manner of “violence”. Many tribal societies once lived like this, and were in harmony with the earth and with the environment. They perceived themselves as part of the whole, and sought to always maintain balance.
From a yogic understanding, we are all one – there is no separation between you and me, and there is no separation between me, you and the cow in the paddock either. When something is done with violence, it’s not just done to that thing with violence, but because we are that thing, we are doing violence towards ourself.
Hence all of life is perceived as sacred, as one, and treated as so.
If we all practiced ahimsa, there would be no environmental issue, because once again, we would perceive all of life as sacred, and not something ‘less than’ to be exploited for material gain.
But ahimsa is not the only yama which has an impact on the environment.
Asteya does too. It’s all about non-stealing, or not taking that which isn’t given.
When a mining company goes into an area and rips into the land with great gusto and powerful machinery, stripping away the trees and plants and top soil to haul out minerals, metals or stones from within – they are not practicing asteya. When a fishing boat strips out all the fish in one particular area, this is not asteya.
Do we steal from nature?
We do when we take that which we don’t need.
At the heart of asteya lies the belief that “we are enough, that we have enough”. Mass consumerism fosters the exact opposite belief – that we need more, we need the latest, we need the shiniest most up to date gadget. As yogis, when we integrate asteya into our daily lives, we naturally begin to consume less, and consuming less is awesome for the environment.
Asteya is tied to Aparigraha – abstaining from greed. Not coveting that which isn’t ours. And, I love this definition:
Avoidance of unnecessary acquisition of objects not essential to maintaining life or spiritual study.
Again, practicing aparigraha directly eats into the roots of materialism and consumerism.
One can not accumulate objects mindlessly and be a yogi.
It’s that simple.
So if you’re concerned about the environment, and you’ve been coming along to yoga classes for awhile now – it might be time to start diving into the deeper aspects of yoga that show us a way to live in harmony with the greater whole.
But don’t view the yamas as a way you ‘should’ live.
There is no ‘should’ in yoga.
Instead, as you practice and study more, and as you become more and more conscious and aware of your actions, you begin to see how living in particular ways are harmful to you. Therefore those ways begin to drop away, revealing a life effortlessly lived along the lines of the yamas and the niyamas.
In this way, the yamas and niyamas are both the means to a peaceful, connected, enlightened life, and the fruits of such a life.
Through experience, we learn that when we’re stealing, or when we’re acting violent, or when we’re being greedy… it doesn’t feel good, and it has less than great results. So we choose not to take those actions, or hold those intentions anymore.
On a global scale, this means if we were all practicing yoga, we’d effortlessly be in harmony with life again and there would be no need for such things as International Climate Change Day.
And if you’re wondering what those numbers and arrows are super-imposed on downward dog? Here’s a blurb from the official website:
350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments are now saying is the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.
Accelerating arctic warming and other early climate impacts have led scientists to conclude that we are already above the safe zone at our current 390ppm, and that unless we are able to rapidly return to 350 ppm this century, we risk reaching tipping points and irreversible impacts such as the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and major methane releases from increased permafrost melt.
Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. Learn more about 350 – what it means, where it came from, and how to get there. Read more >>