Sustainability and Yoga

Updated: Jul 31, 2019

When you hear the word Sustainability, what are the first things that come into your mind? What does the word mean to you as an individual?

And when you hear the word Yoga, what are the first images that come into your mind?

The imagery of yoga has most often become what we see on Instagram and other social media. The physical practice of complex postures, or the asanas, seemingly only possible for those who are flexible and fit. But yoga is so much more than just physical postures of exercise. It is about connecting us and finding balance with our environments. It is ethical and personal guidelines for living. Through yoga we not only changes us as individuals, it impacts the wider world in which we live.

The word yoga means "unity" and promotes unity of all things and of all people, a concept closely aligned with the UN sustainability goals.

In The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali written almost two thousand years ago, he described yoga as having eight "limbs" or steps. The first two steps are the preliminaries, the basics. It is the Yamas and Niyamas - ethical and personal guidelines for living which are the steps that connects us to the rest of the world. The third step is Asana, the physical practice of which the majority of the world think of when speaking of yoga. The fourth step is Pranayama, or Prana - our breath control, the vital life force of all living beings. The last four steps (Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) are the ones leading us to the union of the individual soul with the universal soul.

The Sustainable Development Goals

On the 20th of June 2016, the Permanent Mission of India to United Nations organised a special event on Yoga for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS). The purpose for the event was to enrich and educate towards the collective insight on the unique features of the ancient practice of yoga and it's central place for the achievement of the modern sustainability goals.

When we integrate the principles of yoga into our daily lives, our choices and habits will positively impact the world in which we live, both towards the environment and to all living beings. Sustainable development is personal, it's about our communities and it's about our environment. Through yoga, we learn to breathe fully through our prana and to cultivate a deeper respect of the exchange of oxygen that support our entire existence. It is an exchange of energy passing back and forth between our bodies and the planet, and with this knowledge and respect we begin to subsequently make choices that support clean air for all.

Social Sustainability

Social sustainability, compassion towards our communities and fellow human beings is another aspect. Most often when we hear the word sustainability we tend to think about recycling, clean air and the reuse of the worlds resources. But without our communities and people working together in balance can we achieve the other goals as well. One of the most important aspects of ones mental wellbeing is to feel we are of value, that we contribute and are seen.

Yoga brings relaxation to the mind affecting our nervous system through our practice. It can give self-strength and the capability to approach conflicts and stress from a place of balance, compassion and love and at such bringing peace to difficult situations. It can help people back to society of those who have fallen on the outside and it can help us see people for who they are regardless of social status, religion or background. It promotes and cultivates a deep respect for all that we are every single one of us and that we can see each other. We slow down and become more aware of our own wellbeing, physical and mental and therefore also more aware of our surroundings and how we impact them and they impact us.

Live your yoga everyday and you can make a difference for yourself, for others and for our planet.

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You can watch the video here from the event Yoga for the Achievement of Sustainable Development Goals at the UN.