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What do yoga and sustainability have in common?

Modern day yoga is so often squeezed into a 30 minute gym slot. Commercialised and misunderstood. But if you look beyond the physical practice of yoga, sustainability has a strong part to play in yoga.

A sustainable life creates peace among us. It allows us to live in equilibrium with all life and the Earth we call home. Yoga is, similarly, a sustainable practice that teaches us awareness and provides a set of guidelines for us to live a life in harmony with the universe.

Let’s dive into this a little deeper.

A common misconception of yoga is that it starts and ends with the body. The perception has become acrobatics, physical abilities, headstands and sunsets, overpriced protein shakes and expensive leggings. But the true meaning of yoga is actually ‘union’.

This union can be interpreted in many ways and is often said to be a body/mind union. However, ancient yogic texts such as Patanjali’s Sutras suggest that there is a deeper connection in yoga. That is the connection between the body, mind, soul and spirit (the universe.)

Patanjali’s Sutras have been around for thousands of years, although the exact date of writing is unknown. Not much is known about Patanjali either: he may have been one sage, or a group of people whose collective teachings were written into existence by their students. He is, however, credited as being the father of modern day yoga.

Lokah Samastah Sukinho Bhavantu: May all beings be happy and free”

- Yoga Mantra

By bringing our awareness to our connection with the universe, it is clear to see that we need to protect and nurture the planet that we live on.

When we take yoga beyond the mat - as it was meant to be - yoga has the potential to be a catalyst for environmental sustainability within our communities.

By reducing the amount of the Earth's natural resources that we use, replenishing wherever we can and minimising the pollution that we cause, we can care for the world in a way that will affect future generations and the world they will live on. That, in itself, is practicing yoga.

So here are 8 tips put together by our wellness blogger and current yoga teacher trainee Kendall to help you move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.

Sustainable Yoga tip #1 Reduce, Re-use, Recycle

Probably not the first time you’ve heard this one and it won’t be the last. By reducing the food we buy, the clothes, products, everything and learning to reuse and recycle more, we can save money and help the environment by cutting down on manufacturing pollution.

We live in a society where we are constantly bombarded with adverts convincing us to buy, buy, buy! This is particularly true in the yoga world, where fashions and trends in yoga clothing, props and other related items are constantly popping up on our instagram feeds. But you don’t need to be kitted out in Lululemon to practice yoga. You don’t need expensive props or the best mat on the market. Yoga is always accessible to you, at any budget, at any place in your life.

If you regularly burn through your yoga mat, try using a towel over it to protect it from damage when you sweat.

Need an update to your yoga wardrobe? Why not organise a yoga clothes swap in your community or check second hand stores - you can often find some yoga fashion gems at a fraction of the cost by shopping second hand.

Keen for new props? You may already have some good options at home. A belt or dressing gown tie sub in well for yoga belts. Books also work well as blocks.

Sustainable Yoga tip #2 Eat Locally

Food can have a huge carbon impact. It’s not uncommon for bananas grown in the Dominican Republic to be packed into plastic bags in Thailand and then shipped out to the UK from there! Many food suppliers make decisions based on cost, not benefits for the environment!

When available, opt to eat locally and when buying everyday products, look for the fair trade certification. That way you know that what you are buying has been sourced sustainably and that the workers are being treated and paid fairly for it.

Sustainable Yoga tip #3 Get A Reusable Water Bottle

Skip the plastic bottles and get your own reusable bottle.

Drink more tap water too. Bottled water companies need you to think they are better than tap water, otherwise, who would buy them? Tap water has been tested and it is often reported that it's better than bottled water anyway!

If you need to refill your bottle when you are out, there are now many apps that will let you find places where you can refill your water for free! Check out Findtap and Refillmybottle. Never pay for water again!

Sustainable Yoga tip #4 Remember Your Shopping Bags

Plastic is becoming more and more dangerous to our world and the amount of plastic that goes to waste and fills our oceans is affecting wildlife. Single-use plastics such as plastic shopping bags have an average lifespan of 12 minutes, but take around 500 years to decompose! Fabric shopping bags are easy to buy second hand, or you may already have some hanging around at home. Keep your shopping bags somewhere that you won’t forget them and always, always, re-use.

Sustainable Yoga tip #5 Drive Less

If you need to get around, consider alternative options. Can you rideshare? Even better, ride a bike or take public transport. This can help reduce our carbon footprint and minimise the amount of pollution in the air.

The same thing goes for flights. We all love flights because they are so quick and convenient and we associate them with fun things like travelling! But in Sweden, they have a concept called flygskam (flight shame) which is a movement encouraging people to consider sustainable alternatives with lower carbon emissions than flying, such as trains.

Sustainable Yoga tip #6 Think Before You Buy

This relates to beauty, fashion and feminine products. Buy from companies that are helping our world, think about who you are supporting and let's all work at holding companies accountable for the choices they make!

Seek out sustainable and ethical brands that are doing their bit, get thrifty and buy second-hand. That goes for your stuff too, if you are finished with it, could it go to someone else? Either sell or donate clothes and items you no longer need.

Sustainable Yoga tip #7 Eat More Plant-Based

What you eat is completely up to you, but by bringing some awareness to the food we consume, we can make better choices for our planet. By introducing a few more plant-based meals into our diets we can significantly cut our carbon footprint. In addition, being aware and conscious about using up exotic foods or superfoods that have to be flown into our country is another way to foster a sense of sustainability within our eating patterns.

Ayurveda - the sister science of yoga - teaches us that we should eat with the seasons. As you add more plant-based options into your diet, it can be fun to play with seasonal ingredients in your meal plans. For example, during winter you could try making your own kimchi or sauerkraut, and during the Autumn/Fall months you could add interest to your diet with pumpkin, kale, pears, figs, and apples.

Making a few simple changes to your diet can make a massive difference and that leads us to our very last point…

Sustainable Yoga tip #8 Do Your Homework

Knowledge is power and by doing a little extra research and sharing information with those around us we can help do our bit and work towards a more sustainable way of life.

Just add a little more awareness to your daily habits and over time, it will become your way of life. Little steps can lead to great impact! After all, we only have one home, let’s protect it together!

If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about awareness, mindfulness, and yoga beyond the mat, our FREE Ahimsa short course has hours of daily exercises and practices that tap into the spiritual and philosophical roots of yoga.

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