We step on our yoga mat. We connect to our feet. We take a deep breath in and finally we are here, we are present. We are here to “do yoga” and alas, although hectic and bustling, life has presented us with a space to create calm.
We take a deep breath in and reach up to the sky. We fold forward as we breathe out … the teacher continues to call postures as we, the students, breathe and flow. Some connected, and other perhaps disconnected. The teacher calls the next asana: “tree pose.”
Standing proud with my right foot rooted into my mat and my left foot anchored against my strong and engaged left thigh, I reach my arms far and wide and spread my fingers as though they were tree branches. I set my drishti out of the studio window, where I see many trees standing tall — perhaps setting their drishti, or gazing point, upon me. I wonder what they think about us humans “doing yoga.” I wonder if they mock us for taking an hour or so out of our day to breathe and connect, while they, the trees, spend their entire lives breathing and recycling our air and connecting their roots deep into the earth to provide habitat for animals and protective shade for us. I wonder if they shake their proverbial heads when they think about the fact that 80 percent of the forests in the U.S. alone have already been destroyed resulting from human behavior. I wonder if we actually took our presence off of our yoga mat and into the environment that supports our lives, if such a tragedy would even grace the lips of conversation. I wonder what the trees think when they hear that, according to onetreeplanted.org, “more than half of the worlds timber and 72 percent of paper is consumed by 22 percent of the world’s population.” I wonder how the trees would feel knowing that industrialized countries consume over 12 times more wood products per person than non-industrialized countries.
What would it look like to take our yoga and apply it to the world’s tree dilemma? Ahimsa (non-violence): “If forests are destroyed through logging or burning, their carbon is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a climate-changing greenhouse gas.” This is harmful to all beings on our planet, from other plants, to animals and insects to we human beings. The second principle satya (truthfulness): do we really need all that we consume? Are there other alternatives than the over consumption of wood and paper products? If we took our presence into the environment and lived our yoga and ahimsa more than one hour per day, I would say the answer to these questions is a definite yes.
Let’s check out another environmental disaster: plastic straws.
According to strawlessocean.org, it’s estimated that we use over 500 million straws every day in America, and most of those end up in our oceans, polluting the water and killing marine life. If we don’t act now, by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.
This is clearly a breach of ahimsa, as it brings violence to the habitat of our oceans, as well as a breach of satya, truthfulness, as I believe ignorance is a form of a mis-truth; how many of us after our yoga class stop by a local shop to purchase an iced coffee or cold pressed juice and don’t even pay attention to the plastic straw we drink with and how it impacts our environment? If you do, great, kudos. If you don’t — I think it’s time we take our practice off our mat and into the environment.
Photo by Filip Zrnzevic.
Originally published in the Summer + Fall 2019 issue.