How Environmentalism is Yogic (& its relationship to the Yamas)

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A stock photo with two signs. One reads "There is NO Planet B" with the "O" being a picture of earth. 
The 2nd sign reads "System change, Not Climate Change!" With a picture of the earth between the two statements. 
The title of this pin is "How Environmentalism is Yogic".

The boyfriend took me to the Oakland Zoo yesterday and we learned so much. I was hesitant to go to the zoo at first because I had a misconception that the animals were taken from the wild, their homes and brought into the zoo for our entertainment. However, from what I read, many of the animals there were either neglected pets, from circuses where they stayed in very small enclosures (more like cages) their whole lives, injured and just there being nursed back to health before being released again, etc. If you decide to go to the zoo, I suggest doing your research on what the zoo is doing in regards to sustainability, conservation, and education. We vote with our dollars!

After we went to the zoo, we watched the first episode of Our Planet and it reminded me of the interconnectedness between all the species. However, because of humans causing climate change, this planet may not be habitable in the coming decades. As a society, it feels like we’ve become disconnected from nature rather than remembering we’re a part of it.

So how is environmentalism yogic? I think mostly in terms of the Yamas here. The yamas is one of the 8 limbs of yoga and they’re the ethical rules or universal morality.

The 5 Yamas & Its Relationship to the Environment:

  • Ahimsa: nonviolence
    • I see littering, slaughterhouses, cutting down forests, hunting for elephants’ ivory tusks, taking pictures with exotic animals, etc as acts of violence. Each has its own ripple effect.
  • Satya: truthfulness, deep listening
    • Are we deeply listening to mother earth and what she needs? Are we paying attention to the effects of climate change and the causes of it? Knowing the truth, are we choosing to ignore the signs? Or are we taking action?
    • Are we staying true to ourselves and what we know? Or are we rejecting the truth and choosing to behave in harmful ways to the planet?
  • Asteya: nonstealing
    • “All of us are thieves. Knowingly and unknowingly, we steal things from nature. Whose air do we breath? It is nature’s. But that doesn’t mean we should stop breathing and die. Instead, we should receive each breath with reverence and use it to serve others; then we are not stealing. If we accept it and don’t give anything in return, we are thieves.” – The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, translation & commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda
    • I was saddened reading about the mountain lions, which are usually solitary animals, having difficulty finding their land because of modern society. We are in fact stealing their land.
    • Deforestation (for beef and palm oil) is also us stealing land leading to extinct and endangered species.
  • Brahmacharya: moderation
    • Are we buying too many groceries to the point we’re wasting food (food waste is 30-40% of the food supply in the USA)? Are we able to discern how much we actually need? Or are we overshooting it, leading to waste? Are we buying more clothes than we can store or we actually need? Are we being mindful in how much we’re consuming?
  • Aparigraha: non-greed, non-possessiveness, non-hoarding
    • Living a simple, minimalistic, zero-waste life is good for the environment.
    • Learn about waste in the fashion industry (92 million tones of waste produced per year and 79 trillion liters of water consumed), and again food waste.

I think this information could be a bit depressing, but I remain hopeful! After going to the zoo and watching Our Planet, I’m re-inspired to create a zero waste kit to keep in my car, avoiding palm oil (& only looking for sustainable palm oil), drinking sustainable coffee, being as plastic-free as possible (using plastic produce bags during the pandemic have hurt my soul each time), & continue learning so I can be better. And I’m reminding myself of all the folks and organizations out there who DO care and are taking action.

Yoga is about unity, not just amongst us humans, but it is to remind us as well of the interconnectedness between us and other species. We are a part of the planet and our actions impact its health. A way to take our yoga practice off the mat is to be a little more environmentally conscious.

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