Yoga and Nature

25th Apr 2023 - Michele Pernetta

FG founder Michele Pernetta discusses yogic philosophy and practices which bring us closer to the earth and nature

Yoga can help us connect with our innate compassion and feeling of connectedness, both in the way we practise yoga with sensitivity in our own bodies, as well as how we practise sensitivity to the person next to us on the mat, or in the shower queue.

This practice, taken to its furthest reaches could reach out to the entire world.

So as yoga practitioners, how can we cultivate compassion and connect this to the environment and the good of the planet? We can start small, but go deep.

As yoga practitioners “Ahimsa” is something we try to live by, to cultivate, to explore and practice. It means “do no harm.” If we apply that to our practice while we stretch a hamstring, - not so far it hurts, not too little so there is nothing happening, but just enough to be doing no harm, only good - then perhaps we can take this practice and try it elsewhere? To how we walk in our garden without killing snails, to not swatting a mosquito if it’s minding its own business on the loo wall, to not yanking our dog's lead too hard if it pulls.

Plants are living too. If you adhere to the Buddhist belief that we are not separate beings at all, but all “one being” - connected with all of life - then plants also are alive. The Buddhists ask permission and give thanks before cutting a beautiful flower from a tree. They do it in relationship with the tree. In spiritual traditions, relationship is the very truth of our existence.

I have run over 100 yoga retreats. People come for nature - for the greenery, the breeze, sun, sea, fresh air. Being close to nature is relaxing and rejuvenating, it brings a sense of connection. However I am sometimes surprised that though people have come to get away from the city and to be in nature, the first thing some people do is kill every insect they can find - with chemicals, with books, swatters, plug in poisons they will breathe in all night simply to kill a mosquito or two, and all the spiders also who would probably eat the mosquito if given a chance. Some become hysterical if a large bee or wasp comes near, killing at will while waxing lyrical about the yoga lifestyle. This is understandable seeing as we have probably lived cut off from anything we would conceive of as “the wild.” We have houses and concrete streets to keep us apart from our natural environment.

Many spiritual teachings say that the compassion and relationship we maintain with all living beings develops us spiritually. Love – being the core of all spiritual teachings - is blind. It doesn’t matter if it's your mum, or a spider or your enemy. Love all. We can at least try to.

With that in mind here are 6 yogic practices that can help connect us with the earth:

1. Walking barefoot. This is called “Earthing” as the magnetic polarity of the earth is extremely beneficial for humans. Humans have a positive charge, while the earth has a negative charge. Millions of lightening strikes have charged the earth. Oxygen is an electron acceptor so the electrons in the earth increase the oxygen in our blood. Barefoot on earth, grass or sand is how we were designed to walk. Benefits include stress reduction, endorphin production, lower blood pressure, better sleep and pain management.

2. Take your water out of the plastic bottles, put it in glass and leave the jug or glass bottle in the sun. The rays of the sun charge and magnetise the water and make it full of health giving energy. The water then has anti viral, anti bacterial, and anti fungal properties and is great for digestive issues.

3. Breathe. Sounds like a cliché but how can there be a deeper way to participate with the universe? Feel deeply in your heart as you breathe. The spiritual traditions maintain that you are not doing this breathing action, you are in fact being breathed!

4. Be kind to your fellow creatures. Stop killing them. If you are new to this try starting with the industrious ant. Do not tread on him/her/they! Then move to flies, spiders - if you attempt to catch them and put them outside it's good for your reflexes and motor skills! Save snails, wasps bees and even scorpions! Move them away. A good practice is simply to forget the size difference. Use your mind like a microscope and blow the incredible creature, the miracle of nature up to a large size and imagine how they feel in the world of giant feet and airborne poisons. It would be like living through an apocalypse. Watch nature programmes about them.

5. Get some sun. wind. rain. Snow.

6. Stare at the view. Even if all you can see it one cloud between two buildings. It's still nature. And we were designed to see nature daily.

You may not be as active in the environmental movement as you’d like to be. You may not attend marches, you may not be able to make big gestures right now, but developing a sensitivity in your own feeling, in your heart, in your own body for your environment and all its precious beings can start with your yoga practice, and move to ants, elephants, and grow to mountains, seas and forests.

Further read