a boots-on-the-ground view of the change that's a-foot

Think Globally. Stretch Locally – yoga growing eco

by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC

Early into my yoga years, I felt and realized the practical and metaphorical connection between the yogic path and earth stewardship. Yoga is about flow, connection of the mind, body and spirit, and oneness of the Universal energy – much like the cycles of nature and its ecosystems. As it’s said in Japanese, ““Shi Do Fu Ji” – The Soil and Body are One.

When I opened my neighborhood studio in 2000, it became a place to explore these ideas and put them into practice. I introduced one of the the first green yoga mats, as well as the idea of yoga as activism. My seemingly new and revolutionary teaching of yoga as a “green state” was warmly, albeit tentatively, received by my trusting students. Framed on the studio wall, was a letter written by Shannon Gannon, of Jivamukti Yoga Center in NYC, published in Ascent magazine in March, 2004. Here’s an excerpt:

…”Most crucial to the future of yoga in North America is the courage of its practitioners to embrace the spiritual and ethical practices of yoga. It takes a lot of courage to go against the grain. The most profound act a person can do these days is to have the courage to care about the suffering of others. In our times, I believe that the atrocities committed against animals in the name of human progress is an important issue facing us all. Many other issues are related to it, including water pollution, air pollution, soil erosion and pollution, all forms of violence including war…Traditionally, the yogi has been that member of society who devoted himself or herself to the pursuit of enlightenment through finding means to live harmoniously with the Earth and all her creatures. Now that is a very radical concept for anyone these days to embrace. “Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Shortly afterwards, the green yoga movement became official when Laura Cornell founded the Green Yoga Association in CA, with a mission “dedicated to fostering ecological consciousness, reverence and action in the Yoga community”. Studios are now signing on to the Green Yoga Association Green Studios Program, installing bamboo flooring and solar energy, using soy and beeswax candles and and educating students about eco-friendly habits.

The yoga = sustainability idea has grown by leaps and bounds since then, with the introduction of pvc-free mats, cork blocks, and other supplies made from sustainable materials. Many yoga clothing lines, like Blue Canoe Bodywear, are also now offering organic cotton, bamboo and hemp yoga wear alternatives.

Keeping in mind that yoga was once done on the ground, at sunrise outside of a temperature controlled studio with skylights, I’ve taken to practicing outdoors much of the year. I love to really feel the weather – the humidity, the breeze and the mist of early morning, and hear the animal sounds. I’ve learned even to welcome the buzz of insects and occasional mosquito bites.

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