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My yoga nature

  • Jul 20, 2017

When I gave up my job at the RSPB after several years working in nature conservation, some people wondered if I had lost interest or heart in saving the environment. I’ll admit, some of the nitty gritty of dealing with planning and politics took its toll and was not missed, but I didn’t lose the inherent sense of belonging in the natural world and the inbuilt need to get out there and experience it.

I also didn’t feel like I was giving up care for the environment. I am just practising it differently. The root of the word yoga is ‘yog’ in Sanskrit, which means connection, union, integration, one-ness. When we practice asanas, the physical poses, it is more than just getting fit. We seek to integrate body and mind, breath and soul. The inevitable consequence is a sensation of connectedness with the universe around us, a recognition of non-separateness. We cannot be without the world around us. We are part of the ecosystem of the planet, whether we act to support or disturb.

I believe that my practice on the mat helps me develop and maintain “the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference”. This might be about the practicalities of physical yoga on the mat, for example not pushing a pose beyond my limits and injuring myself, but without lapsing into inactivity or sloth. Equally the sentiment applies off the mat, dealing with the personal and public emotional turbulences of our times.

The ethics of yoga, as expressed in the ‘yamas’ and ‘niyamas’, alert us to wise behaviour coincident with accepted moral considerations from across the world: non-violence, generosity, dedication, truth and so on. As your yoga practice develops, so these behaviours embed themselves in daily actions, whether that be about personal relationships or making more careful consumer choices due to an awareness of your place in the world.

Yes, we can make a little difference, and many differences add up. I read recently about global companies finding a way to recycle plastics from marine waste. I’m sure that wouldn’t have happened if we didn’t have people campaigning for our seas. Industry giants are going ahead with actions against climate change despite the beliefs of certain politicians, because they see the science and know it makes sense.

Organisations like the RSPB continue to provide evidence and inspiration for local and global actions for our environment. That is why I continue to support the RSPB’s work, and why I feel that practising tree pose is contributing to global, not just personal, sanity and health.

You are welcome to join in - I'm teaching yoga on two RSPB reserves in Northern Ireland this spring - click on the links for details and to book:


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