“Live your yoga.” We hear that a lot in our community, whether from teachers, from fellow yogis, or from that internal voice gently urging us not to flip off that bad driver; to patiently smile at that baby screaming on a long plane flight. There are countless ways in which we can incorporate the lessons we learn on the mat into our interactions with others—the same stillness we find in the yoking of body and breath can bring calm, respect, and space into our relationships.
But our personal relationship to the environment is also a part of the practice. In other words, how we treat the Earth—the small and large choices we make every day—is an important part of a yogic lifestyle. Several major tenets of environmentalism can, in fact, be pinpointed in the Yoga Sutras, though it’s really more basic than that.
“Yoga and mindfulness practices are what give us the tools to live in a conscious manner,” says Wanderlust teacher and environmental activist Chelsey Korus. “One of the gifts that having a yoga practice in your life gives you is a window of knowing—to know who I am, the world I’m in, and the environment that feeds me, nourishes me, and gives me a home.” With this in mind, how could the environment—upon which we so integrally depend—be disregarded in any conversation about health and wellness?
A Natural Connection
Environmentalism isn’t a lofty idea unrooted in the daily ebb and flow. As Chelsey says, our environment is what nourishes us; what gives us a home. How we interact with nature can be seen as a reflection of how we interact with our truest selves, which we come to time and again on the mat. Chelsey says that her practice helps her to be drawn into nature—into a specific place in nature that calls to her. “The natural response is to give back in the same measure you have received, she says. “So that’s your yogic act of giving back to a place that feeds you and gives you a home.”
It was, in fact, her practice that turned Chelsey from a casual steward of the environment to a passionate advocate. She had for some time been engaging in environmental work because she says she was fulfilling what she considered yogic obligation: “I was being a good servant, doing the things I ‘should,’” she says. But then Chelsey found a place in nature, for the first time, that she absolutely loved and which fed her soul, leading to a deep personal connection with the land itself. “It nurtured me and brought me back to health—I would fight for this land,” she says. It was when she noticed that this particular piece of land was littered with broken glass that she was spurred to impassioned action.
Every Decision Counts
The butterfly effect is in full flutter when it comes to environmentalism. We can make conscious decisions every single day when it comes to what we purchase, what we cook, and even what we wear. Perhaps the most obvious—and most effective—daily choice that makes a significant impact is in the decision we make around food. Whatever your diet (there’s no small contingency among yogis that considers any diet outside of veganism to be harmful to the environment), there are conscious decisions that you can make when buying food.
The most obvious, of course, is to choose organic products. If you eat meat, buy less of it, and buy from farmers or companies that are committed to responsibly raising animals. Take into consideration factors such as whether the producer is committed to land regeneration or water conservation. Try to shop at farmers markets, and eat locally. When you’re heading out to the store, bring along a reusable bag, or try your hand at zero-waste grocery shopping.
You can also commit to environmentalism by the clothes you choose to wear. The spring/summer 2018 adidas x Wanderlust co-branded line, for example, was developed with Parley for the Oceans, an initiative whose intent it is to bring awareness to the plastic problem in our oceans. Select pieces in the line were developed using Parley Ocean Plastic™ fabric, recovered from the deep blue. Imagine what good we could do the ocean if every article of clothing created or worn was spun from recycled materials!
It may cost a bit more, and it may take more time to make these responsible choices. It may not be possible to choose the environment every single time you have to make the decision. But every little bit helps. Even if you only buy one pair of leggings made from recycled plastic, or only shop at the farmers market once a month, you’re still putting the principles of yoga into practice.
In addition to the choices we make on the regular, we can also incorporate our yogic principles to environmentalism by bigger commitments or projects. When Chelsey noticed the broken glass on her beloved land, she “realized I am the one I’ve been waiting for, and the person doing harm was me by just walking past and doing nothing,” she says. “I have two hands that work! I have two feet that can carry this waste back to where it can be properly disposed of!”
Just as on the mat we learn to take responsibility for our actions by tuning into the subtleties of body and breath, we can take that lesson of responsibility and apply it to physical efforts. Maybe it’s as simple as walking a couple extra blocks to the public recycling bin while holding onto an empty kombucha bottle. Maybe it’s signing up to volunteer for a month at a reforestation center. Maybe it’s donating a couple hours of your time to participate in a public cleanup effort, like the one Chelsey helped lead at Wanderlust O’ahu this year.
However it fits into your life, there are plenty of things small and big you can do to make environmentalism a part of your yogic practice. Have ideas? We want to hear them. Let’s work together to keep this planet our healthy and happy home.
Lisette Cheresson is a writer, storyteller, yoga teacher, and adventuress who is an avid vagabond, homechef, dirt-collector, and dreamer. When she’s not playing with words, it’s a safe bet that she’s either hopping a plane, dancing, cooking, or hiking. She received her Level II Reiki Attunement and attended a 4-day intensive discourse with the Dalai Lama in India, and received her RYT200 in Brooklyn. She is currently the Director of Content at Wanderlust Festival. You can find her on Instagram @lisetteileen.