Ecology is the study of energy flows between organisms and their environment.
Raja Yoga (a.k.a. ‘royal yoga’, Ashtanga, The Yoga of 8 Limbs), is greatly concerned with the study of the subtle pranic energy.
Just as in ecology, yoga teaches how to perceive life.
Life that is universal and extends beyond the boundaries of our body or the mind, which identifies with“I.” It also lays out techniques of working with this living force in a way that promotes its conservation.
Both yoga and ecology stem from the awareness that all elements in a living system are interconnected in a single web.
We belong to the same energy network as all other living beings on the planet. According to the Upanisads, all animate and non-animate creation including humans is composed of the five classical elements, in parallel to the modern view of the matter being composed of chemical elements.
What follows is that the separation we feel from the natural world around us is illusory—this separation is a creation of our ‘I’ mind, also called ego.
For example, one of the oxygen molecules that you are inhaling right now may have been in the lungs of a dinosaur which lived here over two hundred and thirty million years ago. Or, maybe in the lungs of the person next to you.
Yoga describes a state of stillness that is maintained in spite of external disturbance to the system. Homeostasis, as it can be called, has been also described by ecology and other sciences, such as medicine, psychology, geology etc.
For example, our body temperature is maintained at the precise 36.6 C with very minor fluctuations, regardless of the outside temperature. A system that is able to maintain homeostasis carries on. That is, the system’s productivity and resilience to disturbance are both maintained.
Otherwise, dysfunction creeps in and the system may cease to exist. It is by being aware of this mechanism that we can chose actions which will allow the systems to sustain themselves.
However, Raja Yoga owes its name not to its theoretical depth, but to the systematic compilation of principles and techniques that can be employed on our path towards the evolution of our consciousness or self-realization.
Svadhyaya, one of the five self-observances or Niyamas in Raja Yoga, encourages self-reflexion and becoming more aware. During asana (posture) and pranayama (breathing) practices this means being conscious of the flows of our inner energy. This concept is closely related to Mindfulness described by me earlier in this article.
By the same principle we can examine our impact on the environment, so that we do not harvest from it beyond its ability to recover from our intervention. Being mindful of the external world will naturally increase our awareness of that impact.
Also other Yamas and Niyamas can serve as a guide to our lifestyle choices. We can practice:
- Ahimsa or non-violence by reducing environmental impact of meat consumption and industrial food production, not wasting food by buying or ordering more than we can eat.
- Satya or truthfulness by being honest with ourselves when we know that our action will have negative environmental impact, but we still do it.
- Asteya or non-stealing by cutting our CO2 emissions (car pooling), buying fair trade products, not wasting water or electricity.
- Brahmacharya or continence by moderation in consumption of food and other goods or in travelling, shopping sprees.
- Aparigraha or nonpossessiveness by refraining from buying things we don’t really need, (including yoga props and books.
- Saucha or purity by keeping our surrounding clean, not littering, not eating in fast foods that use disposable plates and cups. Cutting down on our emissions from cars, fireworks, BBQs, open air rubbish burning. Also, by buying organic food and phosphate free laundry products.
- Santosha or contentment by being satisfied with what we have, not envying others which can lead to buying unnecessary stuff or travelling around the planet in order to ‘tick’ another travel destination or a yoga retreat.
- Tapas or perseverance by doing our bit for the environment, without being inhibited in our actions by the large scale of the problem.
- Ishwar Pranidha or surrender by recognising that we cannot conquer nature with technology alone and we need to bow to it in order to survive on this planet.
Raja Yoga gives further techniques that can free us from the negative impacts of our polluted environment, including desires, toxins and other stressors:
- Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses meditation) can be practiced to moderate our lust and desire to experience or buy new things or go to new tourist places.
- Shatkarmas (purifying practices) help to purify the body from toxic food or air.
- Asana, pranayama and relaxation practices reduce the stressor effects of noise, food and air pollution on our body.
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