Earth Day 2023: Exploring the Intersection of Environmental Activism and Yoga
We reached out to our members and staff to ask about their relationship with the environment, how it informs their yoga practice and teaching, and what they’re doing in the name of planet preservation.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead
As Earth Day (April 22, 2023) began to approach, our association was reflecting on the intersection between yoga and environmental activism. Engaging in complicated and often daunting conversations such as these can leave many feeling unsure about where to start. Luckily, with a robust community such as ours, we know that listening to learn can be a great jumping off point—so, that's what we did. We reached out to our members and staff to ask about their relationship with the environment, how it informs their yoga practice and teaching, and what they’re doing in the name of planet preservation. With this, we discovered more about the intentional decisions yoga professionals are making in their businesses and personal lives to curb climate change. And, unsurprisingly, we heard even more about the remarkable and crucial role the yoga community can play in driving awareness and change towards a sustainable future.
Here is what we heard.
How the environment and nature are being incorporated into yoga classes and teaching:
- Having the ability to tune into and connect to our surroundings and seasonal changes—we can transform our practice into a place of deep reflection and realignment. Inspired by the forest and the lakes in our area, we love to bring our students outdoors to lead our classes and teacher training and feel the power of mother earth below our feet and all around us. Earth is the provider, connecter, and mother of our practices and a sacred place to unload and recharge. - Nadia Bonenfant, E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP
- To me the word already says it all, 'grounding'. We touch the ground…and there we [can] connect to ourselves and to something larger. I love that. I love that like the breath, she is always there. We need to take care of her in the same way we take care of ourselves. I like to bring that into my teaching—hoping that it will bring greater awareness of how precious this earth and this environment is.” - Biggi Spiro, RYT 200
- Every time I start my practice, I take a moment to ground. I envision roots coming out of my feet towards the earth. I thank her for holding us and for sharing her energy. I remind myself that I am of her, I come from her, and I'll go back to her once this life finishes. - Paulina Fuentes, Community Relations Manager
- We always praise, salute, and show our respect to her [Earth] as a routine at the beginning of the class. - Satish Badve, RYT 200
How yoga teachers and communities are showing and sharing love for the earth:
- I bring the earth and nature into all of my teachings with deliberate word and imagery choices. I have also made the choice to teach exclusively online, which eliminates the need to drive to a classroom for me and my students. I live in an area without much public transport, so this was a real concern for me. I am lucky enough to walk to work and try to keep driving to a minimum. I also dislike teaching a restful class and then sending my students out to their cars to navigate traffic on the way home! - Stephanie Draus, ND, RYT 500
- I strongly believe that yoga is climate action. That through the act of practicing Hatha Yoga, or doing pranayama, or even meditation, we are assisting in the rising of the collective consciousness. So, in my online community, we come together for collective prayers and healing of our Earth Mother and all life that she creates. I also share positive climate actions in my community that will help us reduce our carbon footprint and enrich our lives with meaning and purpose. - Lila Lolling, E-RYT 500, YACEP
- Currently, my mentor has a vision for a community garden. A place for everyone to come together and offer fresh fruits, flowers, vegetables, and herbs. I see this as an opportunity for all of us to come together by teaching and learning about the ways we can give back to our beautiful planet! - Elisa Mass, RYT 200, Community Relations Coordinator
- Ahimsa encompasses ecology. When we unite with nature, the self and Self become connected, we tune into the creative energy of Mother Earth. - Emmanuelle Jouvent, RYT 500, Community Relations Coordinator
- One way is chaturanga! The sometimes controversial chaturanga! Chaturanga literally brings us closer to the earth while also teaching us how to develop strength through resistance. I think showing love may have something to do with the balance of these two qualities: the feeling of closeness and the cultivation of resistance. - Sandi Higgins, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP, Community Relations Coordinator
Some ideas on how the global yoga community could do more in service of environmental sustainability:
- Organizing clean-ups when the snow melts would be a great way to rally our community and clean up after the winter providing our community members with an opportunity to meet and contribute to eco-wellness as a team. On a global level, it would be interesting to design a register with different types of clean-ups and follow all of them with a large community class. We can have beach, mountain and lake clean-ups, urban clean-ups, and seasonal change clean-ups. - Nadia Bonenfant, E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP
- I have been practicing yoga for 35 years. In that time, I've seen it go from a niche practice to a constant presence in modern life. I've also seen it go from a practice that required very few material objects—maybe a blanket or a towel, and simple clothes that you could move in—to a practice that most people define by its clothes, props, and luxury objects. I would like to see the yoga community move away from encouraging people to buy more things, and back to finding a simple daily practice that can sustain someone throughout their lifespan. - Stephanie Draus, ND, RYT 500
- I'd love to see more open conversations about how our yoga studios can become hubs for environmental education, climate resiliency and positive climate action. That studios can begin to hold space for things like eco-grief, eco-anxiety, and eco-trauma. That we can become a place for discussions about the state of our world today and give hopeful examples of how we can act... I believe it is a part of our Dharmic duty to help those in need, as well as educate people that the way we live does in fact impact the whole.- Lila Lolling, E-RYT 500, YACEP
- I wish we, yoga people of the energy-guzzling world, could help our communities organize, relax, and enjoy at least one designated day every year (or every month) as a collective "Energy Reset Day"! On Energy Reset Day, everyone refrains from using any electronic and energy-consuming devices that our lives do not absolutely depend on during that day. Maybe it's a "no cars, no phones, no lights, no computers, no TVs" day for as many people as possible, something like a collectively agreed to and voluntary "energy lockdown" for one day in which the day is instead observed like a stay-at-home yoga retreat. - Sandi Higgins, E-RYT 200, RYT 500, YACEP, Community Relations Coordinator
- I truly wish we (all) would be willing to make small changes in our day-to-day lives, like buying solid shampoos, using refillable water bottles and reusable bags for groceries, walking [instead of driving] whenever we can, disconnecting chargers when they’re not in use, and turning off the shower when we’re putting on soap. If the sky is the limit, then I would ABSOLUTELY LOVE to have "in bulk" stores (where you just take your containers and refill what you need) in every neighborhood! - Paulina Fuentes, Community Relations Manager
Yoga community member events and ways to participate:
- I will be hosting an online global meditation for world peace on April 22nd. You can visit lilalolling.com for details. - Lila Lolling, E-RYT 500, YACEP
- I am speaking at an Earth Day event on April 22, in Groton Connecticut. The topic is: Soft Landings & Deep Rest: Take a Break, Change the World. I'll be connecting rest practices (especially yoga Nidra) to sustainable gardening practices that emphasize protecting (and creating) restful spaces for nature to do its work. Then in May, I'll be offering a Yoga Nidra class series that is tied in to No Mow May-the international movement to convince people to leave their lawns alone until June, so that bees and other pollinators are not disturbed in their valuable work. - Stephanie Draus, ND, RYT 500
- I have created Yoga for Climate Action, a collective of instructors and students who contribute to climate action through fundraising classes. It's so great to be involved in a collective of practitioners where passion for our practice meets concern for our planet. The Yoga for Climate Action collective is made up of practitioners who share a desire to address climate change that is causing so much suffering on our planet today and into the future. While we look to modify our lives to be more sustainable, we also look to organizations to tackle big issues like government programs and international consensus on action. By participating in Yoga for Climate Action we are raising our communal voice to empower change for the better. Over the past year, we have raised over $7500. Please consider becoming a member of the collective by participating in this Earth Day Celebration! - Linda Lamson, RYT 500
To learn more and participate in Earth Day, visit earthday.org.