Headstand for The Planet

As a Yoga teacher and environmental educator I have come to believe that Green Yoga is a spiritual, ecological practice in which we can nourish our bodies and spirits while also sup- porting a sustainable future.

photo_bio_russell-yoga-teacherEcology is the study of the relationships between organisms and their environment. Yoga practice can take us deeply into an exploration of how we relate to ourselves and our world. In Yoga, we cultivate our personal awareness by attending closely to our physical sensations and emotions as we practice. Con- necting intimately to ourselves in this way is the first step in becoming aware of our interdependence with all beings. When we bring this awareness into the rest of our lives, we experi- ence how Yoga can become a path that supports environmental activism.

Every Yoga posture has something to teach us. Standing on our head in Headstand (Shirshasana) lets us experience our re- lationship with the Earth in a new way. When we turn ourselves upside down in Headstand for the first time, it is common to en- counter feelings of fear, uncertainty and disorientation. “Where are my feet relative to my balance point? What happens if I fall over?” As we repeat the pose and face these feelings freshly each time, we are in effect practicing becoming comfortable with risk. When we do this over and over, our fears can lessen or drop away entirely so that we can relate to the world from a stance of trust and connection.

On one particularly memorable occasion I lifted up into Head-stand and was seized by the fear of failure. I was terrified of  falling over, getting hurt, or making a mess of myself. As I stayed in the posture, attending closely to the physical sensations of fear, I realized that my fear was causing me to constrict my energy and strength. I was trying to stay in control by holding on, but in effect was holding myself back from the fullness of my potential in the posture. Through perseverance and focus I realized that if I lost my balance and began to fall, I could just roll over, come up and try it again. As I continued my daily practice of Headstand, I came to understand that the same fears – of failure, of looking messy, and of not being successful – were holding me back in other areas of my life.

It was fear that had curtailed my ability to stand up and take risks. I hadn’t been willing for instance, to speak my hon- est opinion in certain groups, even among groups of friends. My fear had prevented me from challenging the status quo in community meetings where I longed to advocate for an environ- mental issue that was important to me.

yoga-posture-headstand-sirsasanaIt was my daily practice of Headstand, done with careful at- tention, that freed me from my fears and enabled me to become a vocal and active advocate for environmental issues in my neighborhood. As a result, I decided to join the committee that was responsible for the design of a newly proposed building. We explored issues around the building’s energy efficiency and researched wind power. Steps are now being taken to install a wind generator.

I learned some vitally important things about myself in Head- stand, and then took this discovery out into the rest of my life, where it transformed my relationship to the people around me, to my community, and to my local environment.

Russell Comstock is an outdoor educator and Yoga teacher who is developing a living/learning center for contemplative ecology in the Lake Champlain bioregion of NY state; visit www.mettaearth.org for more info.

CAN THE PRACTICE of Yoga postures help to cultivate ecological consciousness?

Might Yoga encourage and inspire us toward environmental activism?

These are questions that come up for me often in my exploration of Yoga and ecology…www.greenyoga.org

Green Yoga Values Statement

The health of our bodies depends on clean air, clean water, and clean food. Yoga is grounded in an understanding of this interconnection. Historically, Yoga developed in the context of a close relationship with the earth and cosmos and a profound reverence for animals, plants, soil, water, and air. This reverence towards life is the basis of the Yogic teaching of ahimsa, or non-violence, non-injury, and non-harming. Today, the viability of earth’s life systems is in danger. If humanity is to survive and thrive, we must learn to live in balance with nature. Now is the time to cleanse and heal the earth and to establish a sustainable relationship with the environment for generations to come.

Therefore, as practitioners of Yoga we will:

· Educate ourselves about the needs of the biosphere as a whole and our local ecosystems in particular.

· Cultivate an appreciation for and conscious connection with the natural environments in which we live, including animals, plants, soil, water, and air.

· Include care for the environment in our discussion of Yogic ethical practices.

· Commit ourselves to policies, products, and actions that minimize environmental harm and maximize environmental benefit.

· And if we are Yoga teachers or centers, we will & incorporate these commitments into our work with students.

Endorsers of this Values Statement include:

Swami Asokananda, Barbara Benagh, Beryl Bender Birch, Scott Blossom, Kaviraj Stephen Cope, Seane Corn, Nischala Joy Devi, Shobhan Richard Faulds, Angela Farmer, John Friend, Georg Feuerstein, Lilias Moon Folan, Marshall Govindan, Ann Green, Leah Kalish, Sally Kempton, Arthur Kilmurray, Hansa Knox, Judith Hanson Lasater, Cyndi Lee, Richard Miller, Elise Browning Miller, Todd Norian, Aadil Palkhivala, Ranchor Prime, Kali Ray, Shiva Rea, Erich Schiffman, John Schumacher, John Seed, Henryk Skolimowski, Stuart Sovatsky, David Swenson, Patricia Walden

© 2011 Copyright   Allison Stuart Kaplan  www.Askinyourface.com LLC

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