On International Yoga Day, we explore the connection between the intricate practices of Yoga and our environment.
In 2016, the Permanent Mission of India to UN had organized a special event on Yoga for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The main purpose of the event was to teach about all aspects of Yoga and not just its physical aspect – asanas. The word ‘yoga’ means union and consists of principles that encourage living an austere life and pursuing a strong connection with our natural surroundings.
Historically, Yoga developed in the context of a close relationship with the earth and cosmos and a profound reverence for animals, plants, soil, water, and air. This reverence towards life is the basis of the Yogic teaching of ahimsa, or non-violence, non-injury and non-harming. An excerpt of the book Metta Earth Yoga by Russell Comstock says “How are yoga and sustainability related? What could standing on your head and the fate of the planet possibly have in common? Can practicing yoga help to make the world a better place? It is well known that yoga is founded upon principles that promote awareness of one’s sense of connection, inborn unity, and interdependence with all things. Clearly these central tenets convey innately ecological consciousness through the practice of yoga? And perhaps more importantly, can yoga inspire conscious, peaceful, environmental stewardship for the betterment of society and the Earth?” This seems to include the practice of mindful eating, changing lifestyles in order to accommodate healthier practices. Yoga also preaches a virtue of Aparigraha which means non-possessiveness or non-greediness which in turn places a lot of emphasis on a careful use of resources in order to not compromise on the needs of future generations. This practice of Aparigraha is said to lead to Santosh or contentment. The former Director-General of the UN has said, “Yoga aims at transforming our life style and its awareness can help us in our struggle against climate change. The practice of yoga brings about balance, wellbeing, happiness and freedom to live life fully. We may actually see the beginning of a global shift in consciousness leading to a more balanced and harmonious planet.” A branch of Yoga called Earth Yoga is said to be a spiritual ecological practice
Adhering to the original purpose of Yoga can have many benefits for us and our beautiful planet. In addition to the physical, mental and spiritual stability Yoga brings to our life, one of the main principles of Ashtanga Yoga is to provide an eight-fold path that will lead us to inner peace and through observance of a universal code of conduct rooted in ethical imperatives that will ultimately lead to a sustainable society.