A few months ago I wrote an article that was published in Elephant Journal about my move to a rural Costa Rican community and how the reconnection with nature influenced my yoga practice and my life.
In that article I talked about how a connection with nature nurtures my yoga practice. Now I would like to share how my yoga practice enhances my connection with nature and has encouraged me to become an Ocean Guardian. As I write this, a few ideas jump into my mind…
Yoga creates openness and serenity
At this moment in my life, yoga is a daily practice that creates a sense of serenity and openness that allows me to enjoy the subtleties of life a little more. When you experience this sense of openness and quietness of the mind, you start paying more attention to what surrounds you, and when that happens, the beautiful singing of the birds, the rhythms of the waves, the colors of the ocean during a sunset and the calmness of nature during a sunrise starts providing enough meaning to your life. So not only you connect with nature, but you fall in love with it. Through yoga I have come to realize you can’t really protect something you don’t love. So I will say for me, this is the first step before developing actions to protect, preserve, and sustain this place that is home for us and every living creature. Having said that, I am deeply thankful for my yoga practice as it provides the calmness and openness needed to fall in love with nature.
Yoga philosopy helps differentiate between wants and needs
On the other hand, yoga has helped me to create an state of awareness to realize that there is a huge different between the things that bring us instant pleasure and those that facilitate true happiness. I have come to realized that happiness comes from inside, and it is mostly a personal decision. It is not a final destination, but mostly something that you work on everyday. But pleasure is a different concept. In my opinion, the things we buy and consume seem to bring an instant “high” of pleasure, but don’t solve our internal problems or make us happier than we really are. Realizing that has encouraged me to keep my life simple and “uncluttered”, because at the end, all we really need is already here, all around us, there’s no need to for “stuff” to fill the spaces. I have read that “nature has enough for our needs but not for our greed”. This realization affects my choices as to what to buy and it encourages me to be more conscious not to acquire things I don’t really need or to give me the illusion of happiness. Personally, that has meant I choose to keep my wardrobe smaller. I have a personal rule, for every new piece of clothing that I buy, I give away one or two pieces. I have only two feet and I spent most of my day barefoot, so I try to have only the shoes that I need. When we built our house the constructor suggested a storage room, and my husband and I immediately turned down this idea as we knew it would end being a place we filled with things that we didn’t really need. We all have a different list of little actions that we can do, maybe some need a bigger closet, or a storage room, but we can certainly create our own awareness, and see where and what can we change and do better, and from there, develop our own rules. Please feel welcome to share yours as I am “work in progress”.
Satya: Actions are stronger than words
Among the 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga which outline the philosophy behind the practice, there is a principle called Satya, which means “truthfulness” and it involves not only being truthful in our speech but in our actions. Satya makes us committed to “walk the talk”. Things are always easier said that done. When we perform actions in our yoga mat it feels hard and challenging but we do them once and again because we know they are good for us. That same concept can be replicated off the mat, and especially in terms of helping to reduce our impact: we start changing our actions, and even if they are challenging, we continue doing them because we know what’s best for the planet.
So why do I want to be an Ocean Guardian?
I live next to the beautiful Pacific Ocean and I feel its energy constantly. But even before I lived here, I always felt a deep connection with it, somehow I always knew I would end up living next to it some day. As yoga practitioners, we believe that being close to nature and clear water helps to absorb Prana —life force or vital energy — through our breath and allowing it to be part of ourselves. We also believe we are all connected and I feel a special connection with the Ocean. So I want to use everything I have learnt through my yoga practice to protect what I love and what I know benefits me.
I want to be truthful with myself and with nature, and not take any more than I need from it. I want to be aware and watchful about my decisions so I can “keep it simple”.
How does this translate into my daily life?
I have come up certain rules and principles which I am sharing below:
- I never leave home without a reusable bag in my purse, that way if I make an unexpected visit to the store (which happens quite frequently,) I have my own bag available. If I happened to buy more things that I can fit into the bag, I carry them with my hands, even if that involves several trips back and forth to the store. It can be a little annoying but I practice acceptance.
- I avoid packaging as much as possible. So when I am buying groceries, a large part of my decision is affected by how much packaging the product has. And by the way, the other part of my decision is that I don’t buy “edible” products which contain ingredients whose names I cannot understand. This has turned out to be not only more sustainable but also healthier.
- I have developed a good relationship with several local providers, not only for my veggies, but also for rice, beans, bread, cheese, and most of what I eat. My goal is to end up consuming all local. Isn’t it wonderful to know the hands and faces of the people whose products you consume? Also, I am constantly promoting their products with friends and family, so the network grows bigger, and helps local hard-working community members to to continue with their good labour.
- I bike, whenever and wherever I can, I just realized I need to work a little more on that, but I try to bike! I just came back from a month of traveling in India. All the visitors where I was staying rented scooters or motorbikes. I decided to do things differently, so I rented the famous “Indian Gold” bike — what a ride! I biked everywhere, not only was it a more sustainable action, but it probably helped to keep me in better shape.
- Among my most precious items that I carry with me everyday and everywhere is my reusable water bottle.
- I buy all the cleaning products for my home and my business in bulk. I never knew it would be so easy to do!
- My printing days are gone! I have my made a conscious decision not to print unless it is completely, absolutely and totally necessary. So far this year, this situation has presented itself only 3 or 4 times.
- I avoid shopping malls. And if I go and feel tempted to buy something I don’t really need, I say to myself “It I really want it, I’ll come back for it” — and I never do.
- I am trying my best to buy clothes from companies who are socially and environmentally responsible. I tried to find out about the history of the product, how much has it traveled to get to where it’s being sold, and who I am benefitting from purchasing it. This one has been especially challenging, but luckily I can see things are changing! I am always on the lookout for local and national entrepreneurs that make good and super cool clothing, so far I have a long list!
- I pick up trash, randomly. As I am walking, running or simply standing. If a piece of trash catches my eye, I pick it up!
- I encourage others to do their good actions. At Bodhi Surf School, we have a program called Yoga for the Community which uses the idea of the “ripple effect”: I donate a free class per week to members of the community and in exchange, they are asked to donate the same amount of time for the community. Now, there’s a code of honor, and I leave the space open for them to do it or not. Perhaps not everyone is going to jump right away into spending hours in community service, but I know deep inside that this will stir things up.
- I share what I do and I pay attention what others do, so this will not be an “isolated effort”. So please, share your ideas!
Speaking to the yoga community
As for my dear yoga community, this blog is especially for you! For all the yoga devotees in this world, we are a big community that is growing more and more everyday. Therefore, we can certainly create a huge impact if we put the practice of yoga into action.
Let’s take the practice off the mat and apply it to bettering our lovely planet. Let’s practice Satya and be conscious and truthful consumers, let’s make a conscious effort to acquire products (especially yoga products) that are made in a socially responsible way and from people and companies that are truly make an effort to reduce their impact socially and environmentally. Let’s use the awareness and attention created by our practice to distinguish what we really need from the constant craving of our egos. Let’s be mindful and sensitive enough to research the history of every product we acquire and use, asking the important questions: Where does it comes from? Who made it? How is it made? What is its impact?
And finally, let’s remember that in the practice of yoga we believe we are all connected, we say Namaste to each other, meaning that we are actually acknowledging the sacredness of one another and every living creature; if we are truthful to that, let’s use it as an incentive to acquire only products that we know are being made in a social responsible manner and that will last longer so they won’t end up on the landfills. Let’s practice Aparigraha (non-attachment) so we don’t take what we don’t need from nature. And mostly, let’s spread the word, not with our words but with our actions.
Let’s put yoga into action!