Environmentalism as a Yogic Practice

Repost from http://www.wanderlust.com

Because yoga doesn’t just happen on the mat.

“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.

Get Involved

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 attempting to create pretty sentences or reading pretty sentences other people have created, 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.

This Yoga Routine is Perfect for Small Spaces

Good Morning All.  I hope today is finding you with joy in your heart.  I was woken up at 5am by my youngest son.  On days that a shaping up to be wild like today, I need a practice that I can do inside and easily in the camper.  So I am re-posting this sequence which is easy and quick and can be done easily with just the space for a mat.  Enjoy!

Sun Salutations

Regular yoga sun salutations are a great way to get in some yoga without needing much space. Simply reach your arms straight up and down with the moves, rather than out, to prevent hitting any furniture or walls that may be close. This is also a great way to practice in a crowded class.

  • Stand with big toes touching and heels slightly apart; outer edges of feet are parallel. Relax arms on either side of body, palms open in a gesture of receptivity. This is Tadasana, also known as mountain pose. Each breath will have a move.
  • Inhale, lifting arms straight up, and take palms together to form a prayer over head. Exhale, taking prayer down the midline of the body while folding down to a forward bend.
  • Inhale, coming to a long flat spine with fingertips on the ground, or if you need more space, hands on shins. Exhale, plant palms shoulder-width apart on the ground, and jump back to Chaturanga (hold body halfway between a plank and the ground, like a triceps push-up, where elbows graze the ribcage).
  • If this is not manageable, step back to plank and lower to Chaturanga. Inhale, pulling chest through arms and coming to the tops of feet for upward-facing dog.
  • Exhale, flipping over toes, lifting hips—keeping legs long—and pressing chest back between arms. Reach heels toward the ground for downward-facing dog. (Optional: Breathe here for 3 to 5 breaths.)
  • Inhale, coming high to the balls of feet, softening knees, and looking between hands. Exhale, piking hips up and jumping to the front of the mat. (Step feet one at a time to the front of the mat if jumping isn’t healthy for your body.) Inhale to a long flat spine, and exhale to a forward bend.
  • Inhale, hinging from hips with a long spine to come up to stand. Reach arms all the way up to high prayer, above your head. Exhale prayer to the center of the chest. Breathe here. This is 1 round. Try doing 5 full rounds.

Get a full-body workout in one pose, using the walls of a small space to your advantage.

  • Press palms firmly into the ground about a foot and a half in front of the right foot and about half a foot away from a wall, shoulder-width apart, wrist creases parallel, fingers spread.
  • Come high onto the ball of right foot. Using left leg to lift you, transfer weight onto hands or take little hops off right foot until you are upside down.
  • Hop lightly until top foot catches on the wall, then bring the second leg to the wall and breathe there. Engage shoulder blades down and together and press into your fingertips for stability.
  • Try to work your way up to a minute—you can lean against the wall as much or as little as you want. Every other time you try this, switch the leading leg.

Pigeon

A hip opener is a must in any yoga flow, and pigeon is a great one that requires no width.

  • Begin in down dog. Bring right shin forward, as close to parallel to the front edge of the mat as it can get, with right knee toward right wrist and right ankle toward left wrist.
  • With back leg extended long behind you and toes tucked, lower hips to the ground.
  • Reach torso forward and down, and then take your hands together as a pillow for your forehead with your elbows winging out to either side.
  • Breathe here for at least 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

Tricky One-Legged Standing Poses

 

The wall is a great help when you are working on finding single-leg balancing poses. Try dancer:

  • Facing a wall standing, shift your weight onto your right leg. Bend your left knee and grab the inside of your left foot with your left hand, using your right hand on the wall to counter balance.
  • Gently lift your left leg and press your ankle into your hand to open your back.
  • Reach your right arm up the wall, or work on any other challenging variations you’re playing with.
  • Stay in your chosen variation for 5 long, deep breaths and then repeat on the other side.

Drop Backs at the Wall

  • Begin in wheel pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the ground hip-width apart.
  • Outer edges of your feet are parallel. Bend your elbows and place your hands on either side of your head, shoulder-width apart, with fingers pointing toward shoulders and your wrists lined up at the wall. Pressing into your feet and hands equally, lift your hips and lengthen your arms.
  • Keep pressing into your feet through the big toes and reach your chest toward the wall as you stay here for at least 3 deep breaths.
  • When you feel ready, transfer most of your weight into your feet, and one at a time walk your hands up the wall until you are standing.
  • Take a breath with your hands at your heart to steady yourself.
  • Then, making sure your feet are still parallel to one another, and not turning out, reach your prayer up and behind your head, reversing the crawl of your hands down the wall and into your wheel pose. Repeat this as many times as you like.

Supine Spinal Twist with Eagle Legs

Your spine and entire body will thank you for closing out your yoga practice with a twist, especially after back bending. This eagle-legged variation of a supine spinal twist is perfect when you don’t have space to stretch in both directions at once.

  • Lie on back. Bend both knees in toward chest and cross right leg over left once, and then twice if possible, crossing right foot behind left ankle for eagle legs.
  • Scoot hips to the right and allow knees to fall to the left.
  • Keeping both shoulders on the ground, take your left hand to the outer right thigh and reach the right arm out to the side. Look to the right.
  • Stay here for 5 to 10 deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

 

 

Yoga for Ankle Sprains

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I am so grateful for this article written by Julie Lawrence, which walks through yoga asanas that can be done while healing from an ankle injury.

You can do several poses without placing stress on your injured ankle. The mantra here is ahimsa (nonharming). Learn to practice with love for yourself by staying out of the realm of pain.

Initially, you should rest your ankle while focusing on other areas of your body. Eventually you can incorporate gentle strengthening and stretching poses as part of your recovery. I suggest you wear an elastic ankle brace even while practicing poses that do not involve the ankle.

To take all the pressure off your ankle, try some upper-body stretches while seated in a chair. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute), Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana (Upward Interlaced Fingers Pose), Urdhva Namaskarasana (Upward Prayer Position), Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose), and Paschima Namaskarasana (Prayer Position Behind the Back) will keep your shoulders flexible, chest open, and breathing fluid.

You can also do twists such as Bharadvajasana (Bharadvaja’s Twist), which stretches your back while massaging organs that can get sluggish when you’re immobilized by an injury. Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose) strengthens your abdominal muscles and opens your chest without putting pressure on your ankle. Also try straight-legged seated forward bends. As you align your legs without bearing weight, you can begin to explore the range of motion in your ankle. Be sure to stay in the pain-free range. Dandasana (Staff Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend) will stretch your hamstrings, increase mobility in your hip joints, and lengthen your spine.

Absolutely incorporate inversions, which help drain fluids from your swollen ankle. You can do Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand) with a chair or Viparita Karani (Legs-up-the-Wall Pose). Both are calming and bring lightness to the mind.

Practice gratitude for the ease you take for granted when you’re free of pain. Injury can inspire you to embrace humility and provides a renewed compassion for others with differing abilities.

Julie Lawrence, director of the Julie Lawrence Yoga Center (www.jlyc.com) in Portland, Oregon, is a certified Iyengar Yoga instructor.