Yoga and Sustainability
This year, the International Day of Yoga at United Nations is based around the topic of Sustainability.
Yoga is right living. We practice yoga not only to become healthier in body and mind, but that we may live in peace and harmony with nature and all of our relationships. The teachings of all the classical Indian scriptures: of the Bhagavad Gita, the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, are scriptures honoring nature and a life connected and supporting both the unity and the diversity of Life. The teachings of our gurus, Swami Vishnudevananda and Swami Sivananda offer a disciplined path to the “Yoga Life” or the “Divine Life”, a life of Dharma.
What is Dharma?
Dharma is sustainable living – life in balance. That which sustains life is Dharma. That which promotes integrity, health, relationship, happiness, love, truth and peace is Dharma. Dharma in nature is instinctual. Nature organizes itself in patterns, ecosystems, and renewable energy flow. The waste of one life becomes a resource further in the cycle of life. The seasons, the life cycles of all living organisms, demonstrate the gunas, the qualities of nature, flowing in balance. Growth, homeostasis, and decay are the eternal qualities by which nature maintains balance while continuously changing – like a flowing river. Every living organism; every cell and organ within every organism, lives in the midst of life cycles, energy cycles, chemical cycles that follow nature’s laws of sustainability or Dharma.
Yet human free will, partially liberated from nature’s strict instinctual restraints, breaks all laws of health, ecology, pattern, rhythm and cycle of Life. Most physical, mental and spiritual disease is caused by lifestyle imbalances, aggravated by pollution of the environment by unsustainable farming, industry, transportation, energy, housing and war. Life out of balance is “adharma” – diseased, polluted and unsustainable.
By making dharma, health, balance and sustainability the priority over profit, pleasure and power, Yoga cultivates healthy attitudes, habits, and relationships as pathways to achieve happiness, with an appreciation for the sacred unity and beauty of life in balance. Yogic practices offer direct experience of balance and health, which become reference points in one’s personal and collective pursuit of truth and dharma.
Yoga asanas combined with proper breathing and relaxation help the body to know centered, balanced, relaxed, concentrated, connected state of mind.
A balanced yoga vegetarian diet not only provides an experience of giving the body what it needs, but also a discipline of living non-violently with the animal world.
The positive thinking of Yoga and Vedanta philosophy, along with the many yoga devotional traditions offer focus and meaning to life that becomes a motivation to recognize our connection with the universal life.
Karma Yoga or selfless service is the skill of acting with dharma, respecting all live as sacred.
Meditation is the direct path to transcend vanity and arrogance of ego and realize Self as none other than the Universal Life.
Dharma and sustainability are the universal laws of nature. Yoga is the discipline, the experience, the motivation, and the knowledge of dharma and sustainability; perhaps the most important set of tools to help humanity return to that balance individually and to develop the collective consciousness of both the importance and the means to a sustainable human reconnection with the dharma of nature.
Written by Srinivasan
Yoga Acharya of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers