Yoga for the Earth Project
Yoga for the Earth is a meditation on how we can consciously cultivate our connection to nature while practicing and teaching yoga in order to inspire creative climate action. It's about inspiring yoga teachers, students and others to consciously cultivate the innate connections between yoga, people and nature and then to take creative and peaceful climate actions based on this wisdom. We believe that when we know and experience the earth as our own body, we will be inspired to care for her, as well as ourselves and each other.
We encourage yogic practices, artistic endeavors, creative peaceful protests, and writings about yoga for environmental activism. We are actively striving to relate our yoga practice and yoga philosophy to these endeavors.
We currently have a home base at Studio in the Woods, a yoga studio in Danby, New York, USA as well as all the studios and events we teach at.
Some of our goals are:
To provide places and activities for people to connect with nature, practice yoga, and consciously cultivate links between the two.
To inspire and educate yoga teachers and practitioners to use yoga practice and philosophy to work towards caring for the environment, especially in light of climate change issues.
To provide a space and inspiration for environmental and social justice activists to reconnect with themselves, to become re-energized and to re-engage with their work. We recognize the sometimes stressful nature of focusing on sustainability issues and the need to renew and reconnect with our deepest self.
Connecting Yoga to the Earth and Why it Matters
We live in a time when our planet Earth is going through major ecological transformations as a result of human activity. These changes threaten the continued healthy and happy existence of humans and countless other species. As yoga practitioners, we wonder about how the practice and philosophy of yoga can both underscore our connection to the earth and instill in us a sense of responsibility to take action towards healing this home that is vital to our very existence. When we examine the practice and philosophy of yoga in this light, we find numerous ways in which this ancient system has from its very beginning emphasized our profound connection to the earth and provided us with practices to honor that connection.
Today it seems that the majority of people living in what is commonly referred to as the "developed" world, are increasingly disconnected from the world of pristine, undeveloped nature. While many of us may seek solace from time to time in a beautiful view, or a walk through a park, or through savoring a fresh spring strawberry, our deep interconnection with the natural ecological systems of our planet seem to be largely forgotten. This disconnection may not only keep us from understanding how and why the natural world is changing as a result of human activity, but more importantly it hides the consequences of our own actions from us, allowing us to indulge in our unsustainable lifestyles in temporary and ignorant bliss. Because of the extreme urgency of the consequences of climate change-for example, extreme weather events, species extinctions, agricultural and economic instability, water shortages- it is vitally important that we adapt our yoga practices to both address and help us cope with the issues of these times.
We propose that it is vitally important at this point in human history that we consciously, devotedly and with clear intention include our connection to the Earth, animals and all other elements of the natural world within this yogic framework and devise practices and meditations to foster these essential connections. Through the platform of Yoga for the Earth, we will continue to elaborate on this philosophy and present ideas and practices for contemporary yoga teachers and practitioners to use and develop and expand, for it is our intention to do what we can to save this beautiful world for future generations.
Here are some themes and items for consideration regarding the interplay of yoga and caring for the earth:
- The relationship between Prakriti and Purusha: Are they separate or are they intricately connected? Should we Transcend or Connect?
- The Yamas and Caring for the Earth
- The Niyamas and Caring for the Earth
- Yoga Poses and their Connection to the Natural World: Mountain Pose, Tree Pose, Scorpion and More
- Practicing Yoga in the Great Outdoors
- Pranayama: Our Breath connected to the Breath of the Trees.
- Pratyahara: Turning inward to more deeply connect on a grand scale
- Dharana: Concentrating, but on what?
- Dhyana: Meditation and the End of Separation
- Samadhi: People at Peace and in tune with the Earth
- Sustainability and what it means for people, the planet and profits
- Diet and Agriculture and their relationship to health and climate change
- The Accesories of Yoga: Stepping lightly on our Yoga Mats
- Karma and Seva Yoga: Beyond the Cave and Off the Mat
- Coping with Climate Change
Please JOIN US in these efforts by attending our events, developing your own events, ideas and projects and and letting us know about them!
The best way to do this is to stay connected on the Yoga for the Earth FACEBOOK Page,
Subscribe to the VAHANA NEWSLETTER,
or Email Astrid at firstname.lastname@example.org
Yoga for the Earth was initially conceived of by Kelly Morris and Astrid Jirka in 2013, though many others have joined in our efforts over the years.
Astrid is the Owner and Director of Vahana Yoga & Eco-Tours and a long time advocate of social and environmental justice. Please read more about her HERE.
Kelly is a Hatha and Iyengar yoga teacher who grew up in a small town on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest in northwestern Pennsylvania. She currently spends most of her time on a piece of wooded land in upstate New York teaching and practicing yoga at her beautiful home studio called Yoga in the Woods. " Learn more at: www.yogainthewoods.info
Some Actions and Events we've coordinated in the Past:
December 9th, 2015: Ten yogis are arrested in an act of civil disobedience at the site of a proposed gas storage facility on the shores of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes region of New York. They joined forces with the group We Are Seneca Lake which has been protesting at the facility since October of 2014. While yogis held banners with the captions: Our lives Hang in the Balance and Bending Over Backwards to Save Seneca Lake, others practiced sun salutations, meditation and acro yoga while Ithaca College professor, Elizabeth Simkin played the cello. The story was picked up by several regional newspapers such as the Finger Lakes Times. We later have to do 10 hours of community service for each arrest. We end up volunteering at the Farm Sanctuary, a farm dedicated to the rescue of mistreated farm factory animals.
- Yoga Eco-Hikes and Walks in the Woods (Ithaca College students from a psychology class with a unit on conservation psychology visit Yoga in the Woods to experience a meditative walk through the forest and a basic yoga class with an emphasis on yoga's deep connections to the natural world. Other hikes cater to the general public and included ideas such as Grounding, Forest Bathing and doing poses for Renewable Energy in the outdoors.)
- Ongoing Yoga Classes at Yoga in the Woods in Danby, NY and other local studios which emphasize a connection to the 5 Elements, mudras, mantras and breathing exercises that connect us to Nature.
- 5 Elements Yoga Retreat in Southern Spain with Astrid Jirka/Vahana Yoga & Eco-tours, October 30 – November 6, 2016
- Yoga Contingent at the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, July 24th 2016 in Philadelphia (Yoga for the Earth took to the streets of Philadelphia with our thematic umbrellas along with hundreds of organizations and many thousands of people to highlight the urgent need for renewable energy now. We practiced wind warriors for wind power, stood in tree poses for clean air, and in mountain pose to keep the tops on our mountains.)
- Fundraiser for Himalayan Girls School in India
- Earth Day Yoga Retreat at the Yoga Farm in Lansing, NY
- Yogis Arrested Defending Seneca Lake, on multiple occasions in 2015-206 in Watkins Glen, NY (Along with the We Are Seneca Lake movement, we are arrested in tree pose while trying to protect Seneca Lake from a massive proposed gas storage project.)
- Prayers for the Finger Lakes - 108 Sun Salutation Fundraisers on the Summer Solstice, June 20th, 2015. and June 21st 2016, Watkins Glen and Trumansburg, NY (Yoga for the Earth and Surya Namaskar for World Peace join forces to organize A Prayer for the Finger Lakes: 108 Sun Salutations on the Summer Solstice: A fundraiser for Gas Free Seneca. Over $5,000 was raised to help manage legal fees associated with protests to protect Seneca Lake from dangerous gas storage plans.)
- 108 Sun Salutation Fundraisers - almost every summer and winter solstice since 2010, in coordination with The Finger Lakes Yoga Community, at various locations in Ithaca and always in support of a local individual or organization in need
- The Dalai Lama gives his blessing for her movement Surya Namaskar for World Peace to our friend and Yoga for the Earth colleague, Roxanne Gupta in November, 2015
About Our LOGO: Designed and painted by Astrid Jirka and digitalized by Megan Pugh.
A yantra is a visual representation of the universe in the tantric yoga system. With the belief that the uni-verse (literally ‘one song’) is created out of an infinite and continual vibration (represented by ‘aum’), comes the belief that everything is connected and is in a constant source of expansion and contraction. Many yantras contain symbols in their center which represent various concepts and/or deities and which are accompanied by specific mantras. The yantras serve as a visual manifestation of the vibration of that mantra, a means to represent the qualities of the symbol and a meditation tool. We have created this Yoga for the Earth Yantra as a logo to represent the connection between the Earth and Human Beings.
The various elements of yantras in general symbolize:
- The square gates surrounding the yantra represent the physical reality of the universe, including the four directions, as well as the moral reality of the social realm, including the yamas and niyamas.
- The bindu in the center of the yantra represents the source of all creation as well as the spiritual center of the individual soul.
- The circles surrounding the bindu represent the constant expansion and contraction of the individual and universal vibration away from and towards the center. They also represent the infinite line which has no beginning or end.
- The lotus flowers represent enlightenment.
The Yoga for the Earth Yantra further represents:
- The color Blue to indicate the clear and unpolluted skies, air and waters on which humans depend.
- The Blue Gates represent the four directions, the four seasons and the five elements (air, water, fire and earth, with the 5th element, ether/space, being inherent throughout the yantra).
- The color Green to indicate the natural ecology of the planet, including plants and animals, and the need for them to be protected as all life is interconnected and interdependent.
- The White Lotus Flowers represent enlightenment and purity and the ability and need for humans to become enlightened about their connection to and responsibility towards protecting the natural environment.
- The Yellow Circles represent the Sun and the power of renewable solar energy.
- With the Earth often being referred to as Mother Earth, the Sun is often considered as Father Sun. Together, the Earth and the Sun create all physical life.
- The Sun and Solar Energy are also indicative of the great possibility of Renewable Energies that should serve as the new alternative to fossil fuels and other polluting forms of energy production on which modern life increasingly depends.
- The brown human in the middle is standing in Tree Pose/Vrksasana.
- This represents Trees, with trees being particularly important to the Climate Change situation, as they are the main link in the ecological chain which both produce oxygen which all animals and humans need to survive, and also absorb carbon dioxide which is produced by the all animals on their exhale as well as by the pollution emitted by modern industries which rely on fossil fuel extraction. Forests are still being de-forested at unsustainable rates causing a massive and unsustainable ecological shift on the planet.
- The Navel of the Tree Being is also the Bindu of the Yantra, representing how humans and the Earth are intimately connected at their source. Like a baby being connected to its mother through the umbilical cord, all humans are connected to the Earth and can only survive if Mother Earth is healthy and functioning as nature intended.
- The Tree Being is holding up the circle representing the planet Earth, signifying the responsibility of the human species to support and nurture and care for the Earth, with increasing urgency during this time of major ecological change.
- The Tree Being is a medium shade of Brown, signifying that all humans are a various shade of brown and should not be considered as separate from each other based on the color of their skin. All humans also share equally in the responsibility to protect and honor the Earth’s resources.
We hope that by meditating upon the Yoga for the Earth Yantra you will be inspired to help us spread the word and take actions that will help the Earth and all life on it to restore its ecological balance.
Aum Namaha Shivaya
We bow to the Divine presence in all.