It seems a stretch to assert that Yoga can help in the ongoing world-over efforts against climate change. However, the notion that Yoga can help in creating a more sustainable world may not seem as absurd upon second thought.
As an ancient character-building discipline, Yoga can do more than one can imagine to re-engineer minds so that we ditch indifference and take a more responsible view about our individual role vis-à-vis the environment.
Pratimoksha has always advocated a wholistic teaching of Yoga. By which we mean our teaching is a combination of elements taken from all 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga. In fact, the Pratimoksha Beyond programs are course-based, and far from drop-in classes. Our students advance level by level learning concepts and tools that span the eight-fold path put forth in Ashtanga Yoga.
The 8-fold path
As a refresher, the 8 branches of Ashtanga Yoga are the Yamas, Niyamas, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The first two provide a moral code, an ethical framework, guiding a Yogi’s behaviour towards oneself, towards others, and the world around us.
There are 5 Yamas (self-restraints) and 5 Niyamas (observances). Asana, is of course, the practice of postures; Pranayama deals with harnessing the power of the breath; Pratyahara is where a Yogi learns to detach from sensory stimuli to better appreciate the thoughts, feelings and emotions that shape his/her interior world; Dharana is cultivating focus; Dhyana is the first steps into meditation and finally Samadhi, enlightenment and unity with the divine universal power.
Yoga itself means to unite. And the aim of creating this unity is to be able to balance all our contrasting and opposing tendencies. Through disciplined study and practice, we learn to shed habits, beliefs and actions that are limiting, self-centred and harmful to us and our environment. We work on our physical selves so that our bodies — considered a vessel for our spirit — are in perfect condition to enable us to sit in meditation undisturbed by physical ailments.
The Yamas and Niyamas set the tone for all Yoga. Together the 5 Yamas and the 5 Niyamas specify the principles by which we are to live. (For a little more detail about the 8 limbs of Yoga, and the 5 Yamas and 5 Niyamas, read our blog https://www.pratimoksha.org/yoga-for-better-life/)
The ethical framework of the Yamas and Niyamas help us reflect on those areas in our lives where we fall short. It might be in the way we consume the Earth’s resources without moderation.
Or in the selective way we use the truth.
One of the Yamas is Ahimsa or non-violence. Just because we don’t physically harm another person doesn’t mean we are living by this principle. We must be able to practice Ahimsa towards every creature on our planet and towards Mother Earth too. How many of us can say we haven’t harmed our planet and its beings in some way or another?
Yoga can benefit all
This is what we mean when we say that Yoga has the power, the tools and the knowledge to help us refine our minds, our habits so that we live more balanced lives filled with kindness and compassion towards all creation.
We believe a deeper study and practice of Yoga will prove hugely beneficial to us all. It could also be part of school curriculums so that the young learn to use Yogic knowledge to build character from an early age.
While government legislation and international cooperation and agreements are vital to ensure more harm is not done to our Earth, from an individual perspective these are external. It’s when the motivation to protect our precious resources and pass it on to future generations comes from within us, that more can be achieved for our common good.