Last fall, 130 dedicated yogis and environmental activists gathered at the Pema Osel Ling Monastery near Santa Cruz, California, to listen—to their bodies, each other, the surrounding mountains, and the trees. If part of our yoga practice is to creatively cooperate with life, says Laura Cornell, why not also attune to the life that.’s in everything around us? Being receptive and sensitive to nature is a form of yoga.
Cornell, a Kripalu Yoga teacher with a background in physics and a passion for the outdoors, founded the Green Yoga Association in Emeryville, California, two years ago. Vedic scriptures and meditation influenced her thinking, and her work with the association fed into her doctoral dissertation on yoga and ecology. The association, made up mostly of volunteers, has focused on raising awareness within the yoga community about how practicing ahimsa, or nonviolence, to the earth is central to the teachings of yoga. Members publish a newsletter, recommend PVC-free mats, and organize conferences where other green-minded yogis can find support and motivation.
The association’s most recent project, the Green Studios Pilot Program, encourages yoga studio owners to use environmentally friendly materials and to incorporate teachings on ahimsa and environmental awareness into classes. The program also provides information on green methods of furnishing and marketing studios. Studios can be models in their community by minimizing harm, awakening reverence, and connecting with the earth, Cornell says. The response has been promising. In just one month, more than 22 studios have made commitments to adopting Cornell’s recommendations.
Meanwhile, Cornell is busy planning conferences that will include keynote speakers from the worlds of science and yoga, as well as meditation and asana classes that incorporate ecological sustainability. Dedicate your yoga practice to your spiritual evolution for the benefit of the planet, says Cornell, and let that be your prayer.