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September 22 was supposed to be the first day of the 2013 Yoga Journal Colorado Conference at the YMCA of the Rockies outside of Estes Park. For eighteen years the editors and staff of Yoga Journal have brought the magazine to life in this majestic mountain setting.
The natural retreat-like campus is a perfect place to learn Yoga from the world-class teachers who regularly fill out the faculty roster.
The Green Yoga Association has been part of making the Colorado Conference the best it can be. In 2009 we began helping to green the conferences with the help of Yoga Journal staff and volunteers. We have been able to eliminate roughly 8000 plastic water bottles each year by deploying fresh water filtration systems around the campus and making reusable water bottles available to attendees.
In many ways the conference staff, volunteers and attendees make up an ongoing community that we are very honored to be part of.
Sadly, the Colorado conference will not be happening this year. After days of monsoon rains and widespread flooding, the damage to infrastructure and roadways have made it impossible for the show to go on.
We know that no single storm event, no single wildfire, and no single drought can be directly attributed to Climate Change. At the same time, we know that as the planet heats up, due in large part to increased carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere, we will see more extreme weather events such as Hurricane Katrina, Superstorm Sandy, and the Colorado flooding.
Sit with that for a moment.
It means that as we live our lives and time marches forward, the chances that our lives will be put at risk or disrupted by extreme weather is increasing. It is some pretty uncomfortable stuff to think about.
We need to make some serious changes in our culture. We need action across our entire society. We need to reduce carbon emissions. We need to start making our communities more resilient to the impacts that are sure to come due to pollution already in the air.
The Colorado floods did an estimated $2 Billion in damage. Superstorm Sandy did $50 Billion. On top of that are the economic opportunities that go unrealized. Like the Yoga Journal Colorado conference. Instead of generating revenue by hosting several thousand Yogis, the folks in the Rocky Mountains are facing big clean up expenses. It is starting to become apparent that doing nothing to reduce Climate Change can turn out to be more expensive than putting policies in place that will lower the risk of extreme weather.
A foundational Green Yoga idea is that our Yoga helps connect us to the planet. And this connection deepens our Yoga. We can also use this connection as a springboard for action.
As Yogis, we know the importance of breath. It is the fundamental activity that fuels our practice. In addition to learning to focus on breath in Asana and meditation, we learn Pranayama to help bring many benefits to our practice and our lives through our breath.
Does the planet also breath?
Well, this video from Greenpeace sure does make a poetic point that indeed it does. Watching this video with the recent Superstorm Sandy in mind, one has to think about how humanity is driving the planet crazy by sending its breath into a bit of "hyper-ventilation."
In the face of dire facts about human-caused Global Warming, it is natural to want to do something big. To personally go out, rage against the machine of destruction, and shut it all down.
To be sure, big solutions need to be implemented by various governments, organizations and companies. Humanity needs to collectively rise to the challenge if we are to avoid pushing our climate past survivable ranges. The truth is, that this problem is so big that no heroic individual act can solve it. And that may make us feel like the effort is futile. Why even try?
San Francisco based Vinyasa Yoga teacher and columnist, Mark Morford, provides some clear insight into this dilema in his recent column "Your Prius Will Not Save You Now." In the end, he reminds us, it is our karma that we must act upon. Through the expression of our values and the implementation of our dreams we radiate love and hope. It is like the old bumper sticker says, "Think Globally, Act Locally."
Since the early 1970’s, Bonnie Raitt has been entertaining audiences with her distinctive guitar playing and her silky voice. She has also been a leader in raising awareness about the need to take action on environmental issues. And, she has a steady yoga practice to keep it all grounded.
"I have found so many benefits from my yoga practice,” Raitt told Yoga Journal (Sept 2011) “Aside from its being a wonderful way to get and stay fit and strong, I love the calming effect it has on my mind and nervous system."
Bonnie, at 62, has been recognized as one of the best musical artists in four decades. It is hard for anyone to deny that she has an wonderful body of work; she has had numerous big hits, has won Grammys, and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now her new album, Slipstream (itunes, amazon) hits the stores as a fantastic collection of songs that is full of energy and inspiration.
Her Yoga practice, by helping to keep her strong and fit, has contributed to her ongoing success. A few years ago she told the USA Today, "Yoga helps. If you get to have a healthy balanced lifestyle and a psyche that's not tortured too much, and you calm the occupational-hazard stuff that can wear people down, there's no reason you can't be even more excited and energetic in your 60s and 70s."
In the environmental activist community, Bonnie is well known for her smart and enthusiastic involvement. As a founder of MUSE (Musicians United for Safe Energy) and the No Nukes concerts in 1979 she established herself as a clear voice on important issues. At her concerts, she has brought awareness to large and small organizations allowing them to network with concert-goers.
Similarly, her Yoga practice surely contributes to her effective activism. “I was raised in the Quaker tradition,” she told Yoga Journal, “and yoga provides a similar path to achieving quiet, centering on your true spirit, and connecting to the earth and to a bigger community.”
The Green Yoga Association also exists at the intersection of Yoga and ecology. We see how a Yoga practice deepens one’s ecological perspective. We see how ecological lifestyle deepens one’s Yoga.
We are grateful to Bonnie Raitt. For her music. For her activism. And for the way she lives as a shining Yogini in the world.
A new book, published by Loyola Marymount Press, combines a new interpretation of the environmentally themed Sanskrit Veda, The Prithivi Sukta, with beautiful photographs from around the world that illustrate and deepen the environmental and spiritual message of the verses.
Prithivi is the sanskrit word for Earth, and these ancient verses give praise to medicinal plants, the inter-connectedness of humanity, and to the Earth herself.
The Prithivi verses are a guide, a method of transcending the limitations of a materialistic culture and cultivating a deep relationship with the planet. The text inspires both global stewardship and an appreciation of our natural inter-relatedness through our mutual connection to the Earth. This meditation of text and image encourages an understanding of the interlocking, healing and resplendent essence of the divinity of nature. It reveals through the intrinsically beautiful images how sacred our planet truly is.
"The amazing range of earth images — from mountains to children, butterflies to tree bark — fill the heart with awe and bring to life the beauty of this ancient scripture," says Laura Cornell, Ph.D., and Founder of the Green Yoga Association, "read this powerful book, and watch your consciousness be transformed."
The new interpretation, by renowned scholars O.P. Dwivedi and Christopher Key Chapple, presents each verse in the original Sanskrit, along with the translation of that verse into English. This book will enhance a Yoga practice through the direct engagement with the teachings of the ancient masters of Yoga.
Five years ago two Green Yogis began putting theory into practice in Lincoln, Vermont. Inspired to bring Yoga, Nature, Permaculture, and Community together, they began building the Metta Earth Institute.
Gillian Kapteyn Comstock and Russell Comstock are exactly what you would expect from pioneers in Ecology, Yoga and human culture. They are deeply compassionate, insightfully smart, and dedicated to achievable practices. All of which you can see manifest in the programs at the Metta Earth Institute.
The Metta Earth Institute is a yoga retreat center, a working farm, a community resource, and an art/writing creativity space.
When asked how they managed to accomplish so much in such a short period of time, they always say, "with the long and dedicated work of so many people, both those living here and those in the larger community. But also with so much grace!"
To celebrate their five year anniversary, there will be a full day retreat with Yoga, food, and music on March 24, 2012. For full details, visit the Metta Earth Institute Schedule.
We have been busy planting trees, researching yoga mats, highlighting green practices, and networking the community together. And, we have seen a devestating oil spill, inaction on climate change, and corporate attempts to greenwash plastic.
As the ecological crisis grows, yoga practice becomes an essential tool in managing our human response.
Through our practice we maintain connection so that we can take effective action.