Sunday, April 13, 2014
Yoga & Nature: An Invitation
This post, Yoga & Nature: An Invitation, appeared in the quarterly magazine, YogaIowa, Spring, 2014. [Image on left is a mock-up of a cover not used. Image on right is article as it appears..] For $15 annual subscription, email@example.com, or perhaps search Facebook, YogaIowa.
GOING “OUT INTO” nature to practice yoga may seem to bring nature more into our practice, and yet it is somewhat of an illusion, if you grasp what both yoga and nature are about.
We are deeply lost in nature so that there is really no “outside.” Present as the driving force in ancestral yoga is a sense of the body-mind [“the little universe"] aspiring to come into harmony and balance with the larger universe for optimal health and human development and gratitude.
The Earth is in our practice. A praise of the sun—the 12 asanas of traditional Surya [sun] Namaskar--is basically the heart of what we term "vinyasa flow." Perhaps go to YouTube and view videos of Indian practice of Surya Namaskar to grasp its profound depth. And there are other sequences that explicitly attend to the natural such as, for examples, the “Earth Sequence” and a related “Grounding Sequence” and Chandra [moon] Namaskar and “The Sequence To The Four Directions” and for some, facing East [the rising sun] or North [polar magnetic lines]. It is difficult to be around the yoga community and not find a rich eco-sensitivity involving a general affection for nature and specific individual and communal and public actions to reduce one’s “eco-footprint” [i.e., the consumption of natural resources]. This sensitivity extends into everything, into natural fiber clothing and bamboo flooring and most other products, as well as practice and presence in unbuilt landscapes. Practitioners may go deep enough to ask as Ganga White does in Yoga Beyond Belief,
What if the temple was the earth,
If forests were our church
If holy water—the rivers, lakes and oceans
While eco-sensitivity is important, it does not equal eco-literacy. We will likely never have holy water if we sense ourselves standing outside nature. In our eco-literacy, water might still remain a “resource.” And might will continue to perceive ourselves to be “domesticated,” not “wild.” We become our words.
“Ecology” is a rather new term, becoming popularized in 1970 with our view of Earthrise over moonscape. As theologian Thomas Berry has suggested in The Great Work, our renascent task in this era is to integrate into the larger Earth community. Because it is so body-mind, yoga can play a role in both transforming our sense of the nature of health and this eco-integration.
As Henry Beston noted in The Outermost House, We hunger for fire [the elemental] before the hands, because we are fundamentally from nature and know it in our heart of hearts.
Now, especially for those coming into wondrous Spring in the Northern Hemisphere, as the whole Earth increasingly tilts toward the sun, and we become sensitive to the rich changes around us, we might invite Earth deeply into our practice.
And I suggest…,
that your spirit grow in curiosity, that your life
be richer than it is, that you bow to the earth as
you feel how it actually is, that we—so clever, and
ambitious, and selfish, and unrestrained—are only
one design of the moving, the vivacious many.
Mary Oliver, from “ The Moth, The Mountains, The Rivers,”
A Thousand Mornings 
NOTE: As our eco-literacy begins to include us, perhaps we will begin to see how even our global urbanization [that can appear to be so separate from nature and artificial as to be almost the destructive antithesis of nature] has not only major ecologically adaptive features but also is wild and still young in the Earth ecosystem. [For further exploration of this possibility, perhaps search cityasecological.blogspot.com]