Near the door at my local yoga studio, a calligraphied sign reads, "The way you do anything is the way you do everything." The mantra reminds students to remain conscientious in all that they do, both inside and outside the studio. It's an important reminder even for non-yogis, one especially true for eco activists, says Laura Cornell, founder and Executive Director of the Green Yoga Association (GYA).
"When you practice as an environmentalist out of fear or anger at the opponent, that changes the chemicals in your body and that makes your work as an activist more difficult--your body is too stressed from always battling. If you shift the motivation of that battle to a love for the planet and for others, including your opponent, you re-energize and find the work less stressful."
This philosophy proved beneficial for Michael Green, executive director at the Center for Environmental Health. In a lecture he gave about toxins in yoga mats, he spoke about discovering yoga after experiencing burnout as an environmentalist. By using meditation and yoga, he said, he was able to gain energy and refresh himself in that work. He's not the only person to discover the energizing benefits of yoga in recent years. A study conducted by Yoga Journal shows that over 16 million Americans practice yoga today--a 136 percent increase since 2000.
As the ancient Vedic art has come back into the mainstream, though, so too have a number of companies more interested in cashing in on a $300 billion industry than in supporting yogic philosophy. That's why the Green Yoga Association stepped in.
Yoga On and Off the Jute Mat
Premised on the notion that yoga is inextricably linked to nature (with poses named for trees, mountains and fish), the GYA is a compendium of yoga students, teachers and scholars whose mission is "to foster ecological consciousness, reverence, and action in the yoga community." To achieve their aims, the association's members navigate a two-way street--bringing eco friendly principles to the mat and using Earth-friendly yogic philosophy in their lives off the mat.
Since its inception four years ago, GYA has worked with over 100 teachers and 69 studios around the world. One of their biggest coups has been in increasing awareness of the PVC present in most yoga mats. As Cornell says, "Even if people aren't taking a stance or changing their practice, most people at least know now that non-toxic mats are available." Thanks to the...