How Does Yoga Contribute to Environmental Wellness

How Does Yoga Contribute to Environmental Wellness

Harmony Beyond the Mat - By Beth Rush

Reading time: 4 minutes

Y  oga means “union,” which also reminds us of our connection with all of nature. 

Yogis often get sorted in with the environmental crowd, but what’s the reason behind this phenomenon? Spending time on the mat doesn’t automatically translate to higher eco-consciousness — or does it? If so, how does the mechanism work? 

You might struggle to see the connection if you don’t look beyond the surface appearances of mandala-printed mats and chai tea. Although yoga may look like exercise, more of the traditional practice is mental rather than physical, fostering an understanding of the intricate connections between all things, including humans and their habitats. Digging a little deeper into the yogic tradition reveals more answers. Here’s how yoga contributes to environmental wellness. 

Environmental Wellness Defined 

Experts define environmental wellness as supporting human health by occupying pleasant, stimulating environments that enhance well-being. Such spaces invite interaction with the natural world and other humans. 

It’s easier to conceptualize if you think of other animals and the habitats they need to survive. People are not separate from their environment — they are an active, living part of nature. Fortunately, it follows that in the grand sacred geometry of the universe, the same practices that encourage human health also nurture the planet. 

How Yoga Positively Impacts the Environment by Encouraging Greater Sustainability

You can see how yoga positively impacts the environment by studying the six branches of the yoga tree and understanding the practice is much more than stretching on the mat: 

  • Raja yoga: A “royal” path of meditation that may entail monastic life but can involve deeply contemplating the interconnected nature of life on the planet and how changing one thing creates a ripple effect impacting others. 
  • Karma yoga: The branch of service built on the idea that what happens today results from our past actions and may include activities like tree-planting ceremonies. 
  • Bhakti yoga: The path of devotion and love toward others. Adherents to this branch may travel to emerging countries, teaching them to use clean energy instead of fossil fuels. 
  • Jnana yoga: The path of the scholar. Those drawn to this branch may research ways to make solar panels more effective. 
  • Tantric yoga: The path of ritual, honoring ceremonies like Earth Day. 

These branches aren’t separate but interwoven. The mindfulness yogis develop on the mat spills into every area of their lives, letting them see connections and develop a deeper understanding of how each action affects another. 

For example, they may transform preparing a nurturing meal into an act combining several yogi branches. They may select fresh, organic produce for their kitchen, conscious of how the lack of fertilizer and pesticide use protects their health while preserving soil integrity for future generations. They may also mentally explore how the ingredients support mental and physical health, perhaps adding red pepper for vitamin C and a sprinkle of nuts for magnesium. 

Using Yoga to Promote Environmental Sustainability: 4 Ways

It doesn’t matter if you are a yoga guide or a dedicated student. You can adopt the following four methods to use your yoga practice to promote greater environmental sustainability. Here’s how. 

1. Uses the Outdoors as a Therapy Device 

Dozens of studies support yoga’s efficacy in helping with mental disorders like anxiety, but guess what? There is just as much research, possibly more, on the beneficial effects of the outdoors on your psyche. When you combine the two, magic happens. 

However, you can build yet another connection. Research shows spending more time outdoors encourages environmental stewardship. Take your kiddos with you into the wilds to throw down your mats and nurture your bond with each other while inspiring their love of nature. 

2. Utilises Minimal Resources Outside of Your Body 

While most practitioners appreciate a mat, you don’t need any equipment to practice yoga. You can go into the wild and find a smooth stone or comfortable grassy spot and countless people practice on their living room rug. 

When you do purchase equipment such as mats, blocks and straps, do so mindfully. Research the brand’s environmental reputation before you buy and give preference to those who use eco-friendly, plant-based materials and sustainable manufacturing processes. 

3. Encourages Deep Mindfulness 

Some yoga practices are more meditative than others. For example, Yin and restorative styles have you hold poses for several minutes while focusing on your breath and how your body feels, providing ample time for mindfulness. 

When you reflect deeply on the interconnectedness of all things, you soon see how dependent you are on the earth for all the things you enjoy:

  • That deep breath of fresh outdoor air
  • The sun, which nurtures everything, providing light, heat and food
  • The various plants and animals that provide sustenance and companionship
  • The perfect balance of atmospheric chemicals to support human life 

Reflecting on this delicate balance encourages you to protect the planet. After all, it’s the only one you have to live on — treat it with love. 

4. Inspires Social Change 

Yoga can be a powerful force for inspiring social change. Yogis understand the energy generated on the mat and its healing power. When many practitioners come together, they can weave a healing tapestry of love that protects Mother Earth. Group events can raise money for environmental causes and remind participants of their duty to nurture other living things. 

Yoga and Environmental Wellness 

Yogis have long had a reputation for being green. It turns out the “union” translation of the Sanskrit term means more than honoring the breath-body connection but the intricate ties between all life on earth. 

Use the tips above to promote environmental sustainability through your yoga practice. You can positively impact the planet through mindful movement. 

Beth Rush

Beth is the mental health editor at Body+Mind. She has 5+ years of experience writing about behavioral health, specifically mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.