September 2018September 2018September 2018September 2018 Yoga Ecology

Yoga Ecology

From Janani, Understanding Prakriti, Swami Prembhava Saraswati

Om dyauh shaantirantarikshagvam shaantih prithvee shaantir aapah shaantiroshadhayah shaantih vanaspatayah shaantir vishvedevaah shaantirbrahma shaantih sarvagvam shaantih shaantireva shaantih saa maa shaantiredhi.

Shaantih shaantih sushaantirbhavatu sakalaarishtasushaantirbhavatu sarve grahaah sushaantirbhavatu. Om shaantih shaantih shaantih.

May there be peace in the heavens (celestial plane), peace in the sky (astral plane), peace on earth (physical plane), peace on water, peace among herbs, plants and trees, peace among the ten cardinal points of the planet, peace upon Brahma, peace everywhere, peace upon me, peace and peace alone. May there be peace and auspiciousness, may all the misfortunes and tribulations be pacified, may all the planets be pacified.

—Shanti mantra of the Sama Veda

From a yogic perspective the relationship between humankind and planet Earth and all its ecosystems is the path of yoga ecology. Yoga ecology is the yogic and vedic way of ecological living. A yogic and vedic life is a balanced and simple life attuned to the forces of nature that support and sustain life. With a yogic ecological lifestyle one adopts the practical and applicable understanding of yoga, which includes techniques for environmental and individual purification and the enhancement of positive cosmic energy all around.

Yoga ecology is not a separate subject to yoga, it is a way of living and recognizing the positive contribution of nature to the development of human life. The quality of nature is always to give and the quality of the individual is always to take. A tree does not eat its own fruit, the fruit on a tree is meant for another person, the cow does not drink its own milk, it is meant for another being, the river doesn't drink its own water, it is meant for others. Nature, Prakriti, is a very selfless state of existence, and the human being is the most complicated life form ever created, it lives totally opposite to the natural laws. If nature is selfless, the human being is selfish, if nature is unconditioned then the human being is conditioned.

—Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Yoga ecology consists of ancient vedic and yogic practices and concepts that have been brought forth into the modern era by Swami Satyananda and are presently being explored and developed by Swami Niranjanananda and Swami Satyasangananda. This subject is being made accessible at a time when society needs it the most. It is a very practical, simple and restorative path for all those wanting to connect to the divine nature of Mother Earth and to ensure that she remains in all her beauty and magnificence for generations to come.

Yoga ecology is not just about planting trees, watering the plants, listening to the birds and sitting on the lawn. No! Yoga ecology is respecting, understanding and living in accordance with the laws of nature.

—Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

Beginning with the basics

A student of an asana class for beginners, a middle class 55 year old woman, said, “After the first class I walked to my car and felt the whole world around me like never before. I could feel the cool evening breeze on my skin, and smell the evening flowers and scents and I saw the stars sparkling so clearly in the sky. It was as if the world had opened up to me for the first time in my life.

When people begin to practise yoga, such as asana and pranayama, they will immediately feel a change in their awareness. Even by simply being aware of one's right hand or one's breath, a new experience dawns. The lives of most people are busy, hectic and full of distractions, and there is little time for simply being aware of oneself and one's environment. As one continues to practise yoga the awareness begins to expand. Yoga ecology begins when the awareness has extended beyond oneself to the world around. Only then can one really begin to communicate with and understand nature.

Through yoga, all the diverse aspects of man's personality – of his outer and inner life – can be purified, harmonized and regulated. Once this has been achieved with even a small group of people, the effects of internal harmony will automatically be transmitted to the external environment. Yoga aims not only towards sustain able growth, but also towards universal harmony and development.

—Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The practices of hatha yoga, such as asana and pranayama, were revealed to yogis through their study of nature, animals, birds, trees, the cycle of the sun and moon, and they have taken names from the realm of Prakriti: bhujangasana, the cobra pose, majariasana, the cat pose, garudasana, the eagle pose, surya and chandra namaskara, salute to the sun and moon, tadasana, the palm tree pose, tiryak tadasana, the swinging palm tree pose, swarna pranayama, the panting dog breath pose, plus many more.

Yoga ecology is not just performing asana and prana yama at a beach, park, forest or on a surfboard. This is merely exercise in a beautiful location. Yoga by its very nature, whether inside a hall or at the beach, aligns and connects one with nature through the body, breath and one's awareness, guiding one towards a yogic life of ecological living.

Pranayama enables one to absorb prana, energy, from the surrounding air. It connects one to the prana, the life force of Prakriti, invigorating and purifying body and mind. A clean and pollution-free environment is a requirement for practising pranayama, thus illustrating the yogic understanding of the importance of clean air for breath, health and life. It is the breath that connects all beings. The air and atmosphere cannot be held by borders for it connects everything on this planet.

The lungs of Mother Earth, the tropical rainforests, have been destroyed to such an extent that now the earth breathes as a cigarette smoker would – the lungs are clogged with carbon monoxide, ash, chemical dust, poisonous gases and toxins – the waste of our modern materialistic life. People are breathing the same air, and as they breathe, the poison fills their body and mind. Yet people don't even realize it. Pranayama helps to make one aware of the breath and its role in maintaining health of body and mind.

Interconnection of all life

The basic concept in yoga ecology is that everything is interconnected, for yoga means unity, the unified field.

—Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

Yoga ecology teaches that every one is an integrated part of creation. When one can see that all is one – that the birds, bees, trees, the family of humans are all united – then this is the union which is yoga.

Om eeshaa vaasyamidagvam sarvam yatkincha jagatyaam jagat; Tena tyaktena bhunjeethaa maa gridhah kasyasvid dhanam.

The whole universe together with its creatures belongs to the Lord. No creature is superior to any other, and the human being should not have absolute power over nature. Let no species encroach upon the rights and privileges of other species. However, one can enjoy the bounties of nature by giving up greed.

—Isha Upanishad

To understand nature, we have to rise above duality. We have to be able to understand the oneness of ourselves with creation, and there is no science other than yoga that can give us that knowledge in such a perfect systematic way.

—Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati

Prakriti as the Divine

In yoga ecology, the forces of nature are respected as all-powerful, and prayers and worship are offered to that force through the trees, the rivers, the wind, the sun, the earth and all ecosystems and species within them.

Just as gods and goddesses are worshipped, one can worship the spirit of nature, and see oneself within that divinity. This leads to the awareness of oneness with nature and the ability to see the same spirit in all. Naturally and spontaneously a deep love, respect and appreciation of nature unfolds.

God is everywhere; in all things and in nothing. God is in the trees and seas; in birds and in beasts, in the soil under my feet and in my soul. Why am I wandering from temple to temple looking for God? When I stop searching I realize that God is in me and I am in God.

—Kabir

If one can make an effort to transform oneself through the practices of yoga, to become more sensitive to the spirit which is Prakriti, and the forces that govern everything, then there will be a change towards living in a more harmonized world, with respect for all of creation.