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Published on October 21st, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans

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Greening Your Yoga Practice

While some may look at yoga as a trendy activity, yoga is actually an ancient practice developed before the advent of spa-like studios, stylish yoga wear, and high-tech sticky mats. As the increased popularity of the practice in recent years has seen a rise in commercial goods and yoga-related travel, organizations such as the Green Yoga Association are continually committed to encouraging yogis (yoga teachers) and yoga practitioners everywhere to get back to the roots of yoga and make their practice, studios, and lifestyles more environmentally sustainable.

Greening Your Yoga

Mudra Yoga PoseKripalu Yoga teacher, Laura Cornell, who drew inspiration both from her deep connection to nature and her personal practice, founded the Green Yoga Association in 2002.  She and the Association now help other yogis to translate their knowledge of interconnectedness into direct action for the environment.

On a mission to foster a sense of reverence for the natural world among yogis everywhere, the Green Yoga Association acknowledges the recognition of the interconnectedness of all beings, value for all forms of life, nonviolence (ahimsa) and the necessity of clean air, clean water, and clean food for health.  The Association also deeply recognizes the power of interconnected yoga studios – with a full roster of events, conferences, a newsletter, and the Green Yoga Studio Pilot Program, it gives yogis tools to sustain those precious resources by offering them everything they need to go green.

The Green Yoga Association’s Pilot Program serves to mirror the yogi’s sense of interconnectedness by providing global networking opportunities for practitioners to connect about increasing sustainable practice habits worldwide. Having launched in 2002, the Green Yoga Association now boasts a membership of more than 25 studios, and holds a biannual Green Yoga Conference to foster community and communication among its member teachers and dedicated practitioners.

…at its heart, (Yoga is) the age-old practice is one of realizing unity with all of earth’s inhabitants.

Membership requires yoga studio owners to pledge implementation of green business practices, and provide educational resources for their students, teachers and peers on how they can make environmental action a part of their practice, both inside and outside of the studio. Studios are also asked to commit to replace lighting with low-energy light bulbs, implement studio recycling programs and eliminate toxic cleaning products, as ways to immediately green their practice space.

Although one’s motivation for doing yoga may first arise from a simple desire to improve physical fitness, at its heart, the age-old practice is one of realizing unity with all of earth’s inhabitants. Fortunately, the number of resources available to the yogic seeker who wants to take their practice a few steps beyond the self has kept in step with the growing number of yoga studios. Below are some tips gleaned from those working ardently for the environment to keep your yoga green.

Practice Green

  • The yoga mat is one of the blessings and curses of the green yoga movement – a key component of an otherwise minimal-gear activity. Most yoga mats are made of non-biodegradable, highly toxic plastic (anything that needs to be out-gassed is suspect). Earth-friendly yoga mats are constructed of plant-based materials and non-toxic minerals, and can be easily ordered online or through the Green Yoga Association.  These eco-mats can sometimes be found at a local holistic pharmacy, which also most likely carries a variety of sustainable yoga blocks, bags and clothing.
  • Shop for sustainable, non-toxic, and fair-trade clothing made from organic cotton.
  • Bring your own water bottle to class to avoid using paper cups.
  • Leave-off your perfume and bathe with non-toxic, biodegradable soaps. If you prefer to wear scents, use essential oils over perfumes and cologne.

Studio Wisdom for Teachers

Studio Yoga with Incense

  • Encourage your students to bring reusable water bottles to class. Stock water coolers with biodegradable cups.
  • Place recycling bins near the cooler.
  • Remind students not to wear perfume to class.
  • Stock bathrooms with biodegradable soap and toilet tissue made from recycled paper.
  • Stock clothing made from organic materials.
  • Clean studio mats with non-toxic sprays.
  • Stock studio with props such as bamboo blocks and eco-mats.
  • Include green information on studio websites and bulletin boards
  • Use energy efficient lighting.
  • Print up schedules on recycled paper.
  • Have a ride-share section on your bulletin board and provide information on local bus schedules and bicycle coalitions.
  • If you’re constructing a studio or renovating, consider installing radiant heating and bamboo flooring.
  • Cut down on paper towel use by installing hand dryers.
  • Install water-saving devices on faucets and toilets.

Transportation

  • If you must drive to get to class, you can build your sangha (community) and work toward clean air by offering to carpool with other students. Better yet, bike or walk to the studio.
  • Check your community for bicycling coalitions, car-share programs and other incentives for sharing the ride.

Article Contributors: Deborah Crooks





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