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How Yoga & Ayurveda Can Help You Lead a More Sustainable Life
I talk a lot about the benefits of practicing Yoga & Ayurveda daily, but integrating Yoga and Ayurveda into your daily life can also help you lead a more sustainable life.
The word Yoga, derived from Sanskrit and can be translated in English as, to join, connect and unite. Yoga helps us to unite our inner-self with a higher-self and helps us to realize the Truth, through physical practice (Asana), meditation (Dhyana), breathing exercises (Pranayama) and spiritual practice (Yoga philosophy).
Practicing Yoga as a physical practice brings many benefits, but understanding and integrating Yoga Sutra, an ancient text of Yoga in your daily life can enhance your life experience as well as create a huge impact on others and the world.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, he mentions the Eightfold Path which is called Ashtanga (‘ashta’ means ‘eight’ and ‘anga’ means ‘limb’). These eight steps act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
One of the limbs is called Yamas, which is essentially a blueprint for ‘right living’.
In this blog, I would like to share how integrating Yamas can help us all live a more sustainable way of life.
Ahimsa: non-harming, non-violence
Ahimsa is often translated as ‘non-harming’ or ‘non-violence’. It essentially means choosing to act with kindness, consideration and respect.
We can practice Ahimsa by choosing fair trade and organic products and avoid purchasing from manufacturers and companies that utilise a child labour, unfair working conditions, animal testing and that cause environmental damage.
This will require some research and there will usually be some compromise -local or organic? New or secondhand? However search for sustainable ‘clothing’ etc and somebody will have done the hard work for you. Unfortunately price is usually a good indicator. If it seems too cheap then corners are likely to have been cut somewhere along the line.
You might question, do I need to become a vegetarian or vegan to practice Ahimsa?
I have to admit, I’m not a vegetarian or vegan. But I aim to have a plant-based diet. And for some people, being a vegetarian or vegan may not be the best option for healing especially if they are having a problem with their digestion.
If you choose to become a vegetarian or vegan, that’s great!
I believe everything in moderation. I don’t eat meat regularly but if I do, I practice Ahimsa – choosing to act with kindness, consideration and respect and make sure that the meat is free range.
Whether you become a vegetarian or vegan or not, practicing Ahimsa means to take care to find a good source that could be free range or organic, or both!
Satya means being truthful to yourself and others. In the context of sustainability, this could be being truthful to yourself by not telling yourself that you don’t have the time or money to live more sustainably.
I have to admit I’m guilty of this – I used to tell myself that buying organic, sustainable products or clothing is too expensive and that I couldn’t afford them. But is this really true?
What if we only consume what we actually need by practicing next Yama Astheya – non-stealing. We may even be saving money as well as saving the planet!
How about being truthful when it comes to time. I’m sure we can spare a few minutes to read the recycling instructions and make sure to separate recyclables instead of just throwing rubbish into the first bin you see. It could also mean choosing to walk or cycle instead of taking public transport or driving car.
I touched on Astheya in last Yama, Satya. Astheya essentially means not taking what doesn’t belong to us and also what we don’t need.
This mean reducing consumption and buy only what’s necessary.
Most of us have been brought up in a time where ‘going shopping’ is thought about as a leisure activity and in ‘western’ society, encouraged as a central part of our lifestyle. We are told it’s normal and a good thing to go out and buy bagfuls of stuff that we might use or wear once. Don’t have the money? Then there’s always that new credit card!?
When you really think about it that’s just so messed up… but this is the lifestyle that we are told to aspire to.
If this sounds wrong to you then why not focus on fun, local activities not mindlessly acquiring objects. These are the things that will strengthen bonds, create lifelong memories and ultimately make you happier.
As an alternative to shopping, why not go out, enjoy the company of your friends, hang out together, grab some food. (But remember, overeating can also fall into Astheya! Do you really need to have a desert or order another dish in the restaurant when you are already full?)
How about mending stuff rather than getting rid of it? My partner gets great pleasure from fixing his own clothing (especially some pieces that I wish would just disappear!).
Brahmacharya: balance and moderation
Brahamacharya essentially means living in harmony with nature and living a moderate life. This can be challenging in a modern society.
You could practice moderation in your life by reducing the time you spend on your computer or watching TV and instead go for a walk in nature or go out gardening and grow your own veggies and herbs!
We can practice Brahmacharya by living a simpler life by respecting mother nature and embracing it rather than manipulating it or taking the beauty of nature that surrounds us for granted.
Aparigraha: awareness of abundance, fulfilment
Aparigraha essentially means acknowledging abundance that surrounds you by not being attached to materialistic possessions and letting things go.
In the modern society, we are blessed with so many luxuries in our life and we often take things for granted.
As a practical step when was the last time you checked your wardrobe? I bet you have many clothes that you haven’t worn for years. Can you give them to a charity and people who actually need them? Let them go… and be liberated!
We can practice Aparigraha in our daily life by showing appreciation and respect to the mother nature.
The link between Ayurveda and sustainable living
So we talked about integrating 5 Yamas from the Yoga Sutra to help you live a more sustainable life. How about Ayurveda’s perspectives on sustainability?
In Ayurveda, we talk a lot about toxins, or ‘Ama’ in sanskrit. We accumulate toxins through eating junk food and processed food but we also we accumulate toxins from the environment we live in, even just living in your own home as we are exposed to chemicals in furniture, paint and so on.
In Ayurveda, we want to reduce toxins from our body therefore organic and non-toxic food and products are highly encouraged as is using products from nature.
Ayurveda is all about living in harmony with nature, which I believe it’s what we should all be aiming towards to live sustainably.
Remember to take the time to observe nature. On a daily basis observe what is going on around you, out your window, in your park or garden. Watch those birds, trees, or even that little beetle you would usually just walk straight passed. What is going on in its life? Enjoy the moment and feel connected.
Enjoy the weather and the seasons – be thankful for this variety in your life. This is your daily reminder of your connection to and place on our fragile earth.
Use this as a reminder to make better, more sustainable choices on a daily basis. This can start with better decisions around your food and diet and grow from there – as it has with me!
I would love to hear about what you are doing in your life to make it more sustainable – nothing is too weird or wonderful.