When I was asked to teach a workshop on the theme of ‘Yoga and the Environment’ I immediately said ‘yes’.
Below is an outline of the three sessions I prepared for the BWY Northern Festival. These will repeated at some point later in the year as an online home retreat, with time for you to get outside into nature too. Please contact us to register your interest.
Everything in the Cosmos, great and small, lives in the SelfMundaka Upanishad
Being in the Cycles
How can we be expected to care about something we are not in relationship with?
I believe that one way to deepen our relationship with the outer environment is by getting better acquainted with our inner environment.
The first principles of yoga are ahimsa and satya (non harming and telling the truth). These are also the foundations of all good relationships. When we practice this on our yoga mats, in our inner ecosystem, might this flow outwards more effortlessly into our relationships with others and the planet?
Rivers of Prāna
Patanjali teaches that to deepen any relationship we must have ethics and boundaries (asteya and brahmacarya). Boundaries enable us to conserve energy, be more efficient and remain accountable. As the climate crisis becomes more real, and more present, there are very many ways in which we are being asked to conserve resources and uphold boundaries for the sake of our environment. But do we even know how to do that for ourselves, in our inner landscape?
In this session we imagined the three major energy channels, ida, pingala and suṣumnā, as three great rivers within the landscape of the body. The practice worked with pratiloma ujjayi pranayama to clear and channel those rivers so that our own precious energy and inner resources can be conserved.
Mother Earth Has Got Your Back
Finally, Patanjali teaches that we must practice aparigrahāḥ in all of our relationships. This is usually translated as ‘non-grasping’ but also alludes to a kind of letting go or trusting process in the relationship itself.
I wish to acknowledge the presence of fear and anxiety as we navigate the particular challenges of our generation. The purpose of this session was to share practices which allow us to self soothe and take refuge, to find sanctuary within ourselves.
We lay down our bones and felt that Mother Earth herself has ‘got our backs’, and in asking ‘have you got hers?’ I shared five affirmations to help us live the five Yama both on and off our yoga mats, for the benefit of people and planet.