The focus of the article is to explore the applicability of yoga practices to sustainable living. Defining such terms as ‘sustainable development, ‘sustainable living,’ and ‘yoga’ is crucial before diving deeper into the topic.
The term ‘sustainable development‘ was defined in 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, formerly known as the World Commission on Environment and Development. In the report ‘Our Common Future,’ sustainable development is defined as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Sustainable living is a way of living that aims to reduce the personal carbon footprint and minimize environmental damage. Someone can live sustainably by making those lifestyle choices and building sustainable habits.
Here are several examples of sustainable living:
- Reduce energy consumption.
- Buy more local and organic food.
- Use more sustainably manufactured materials and items.
- Reuse more than consume.
- Lead a more conscious life.
Leading a mindful life is about being highly present with one’s surroundings, and aware of the personal impact on society and the environment while acknowledging the consequences of each step and action. Let’s define what yoga is and how yoga can lead to sustainable living.
If you ask your relative or friend, you will notice that yoga would be often associated with physical postures, also called asanas. However, that’s only one aspect of yoga.
In the book “The Yoga Sutras,” Patanjali, a sage in ancient India, described eight limbs of yoga, where the physical practice ( Asana) is just the third limb. There are also Yamas, Niyamas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi.
Limbs of Yoga and its Applications to Sustainability
Each limb of yoga has its purpose and helps live life with more integrity, self-discipline, harmony, and respect for others and nature, and connection to spiritual aspects of life. Yamas and Niyamas are ethical and personal guidelines for mindful and harmonious living.
Pranayama teaches breathing exercises to control the vital energy of the universe. Pratyahara translates as focus, withdrawal of the senses, Dharana – concentration, Dhyana -absorption and meditation, and Samadhi translates as self-transcendence.
We will cover only Yamas practices and find the application of those yoga practices in sustainability.
Yama is the first limb of yoga, and it is about vows, discipline, views, and practices focused on interaction with the rest of the world. There are 5 Yamas:
1. Ahimsa (‘Himsa’ = ‘hurt’ and ‘a’ = ‘not’) means ‘non-violence, and it means not harming other living beings, ourselves or nature, neither physically nor with negative inner thoughts.
The application of Ahimsa could be in eating less meat, eating organically, or trying to be vegan or vegetarian. Of course, not to one’s detriment. We can also practice Ahimsa in sustainability by choosing products that have been manufactured responsibly by sustainable brands with fair labor practices.
2. Satya (‘Sat’=’true nature,’ “true essence) encourages people to be honest and truthful in their words and actions. Patanjali wrote about Satya as “To one established in truthfulness, actions and their results become subservient,” meaning if we keep practicing honesty, our life experience will become the fruits of honesty and truth.
As sustainable development requires changes in the personal routines and habits to adopt environmentally focused practices, it often feels hard for human beings to change their daily routines or rituals. People might feel scared or find excuses for not shifting their habits. With Satya’s yoga practices people could more easily realize that they have the capacity and time to try sustainable living and take the first steps.
3. Asteya translates as ‘non-stealing” and refers to non-stealing physical possessions from others and avoiding greed and craving for unnecessary things. The application for Asteya in sustainability would be seen in reducing overall consumption of goods and buying only those things that are genuinely needed.
4. Brahmacharya translates ‘right use of energy or “behavior that leads to Brahman,” meaning the behavior that leads to Divine. It focuses on distributing and using energy not to satisfy external desires and pleasures but rather towards finding inner peace and happiness within ourselves.
5. Aparigraha translates as ‘non-greed, ‘non-possessiveness, and it teaches us to take what we need, avoid accumulating excess, and let go of things that no longer serve us. The wisdom is to enjoy the process, the journey, and not be attached to the results. Hoarding can be avoided by sharing possessions with others, either by donating them to second-hand shops or charity organizations.
Yoga’s principles teach how to unite the mind, body, and soul, be aware of our surroundings, be present and acknowledge the consequences of our actions. Its lessons teach how to make healthy decisions that enhance life quality, individually and collectively. Yoga definitely brings inspiration to create a better world around us and have a meaningful, mindful, and environmentally-friendly life.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: Person doing yoga on the beach at sunset. Featured Photo Credit: Gary Skirrow via Pixabay.