Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Being an Eco-Yogi/ni in the Studio

As my practice deepens and becomes more spiritual (mostly as a result of actually considering Downward Dog as a restorative posture- YAY strength!) it continues to boggle my mind how so many mindful and committed yogi/ni's seem disinterested in my Eco-Mission. It is of note that an entire spiritual life path based upon increasing interconnectedness through yoga could have bifurcated to a level of complete separateness. We get into our cars and drive to the studio, practice yoga near but not interacting with others in a space that is insulated from the earth and our source of grounding, roll up our mats and drive back home. What's missing here?

As a student, yoga studios and yoga teachers are held aloft in this hazy glow of yoga-ness. I have heard from a friend who is taking her teacher training that this "teacher worship" is discussed in class. The teacher almost takes on the aura of "guru" and often students may experience spiritual or emotional release during practice and burst into tears (happened to me once!). So of course I just expected the teachers to have the same awareness and passion for the environment that just feels so naturally entrenched in that which is Yoga. A part of my personal practice is to let go of these expectations and the resulting disapointment.

BUT- wouldn't it be fantastic if we could practice in a studio that valued our earth? The Green Yoga Association is an awesome website to check out for more involvement. 

Here are some ideas that are easy to incorporate in a studio that is already up and running:
- replace paper towel with cotton (organic would be great) towels that can be washed. We use towels to dry our hands at home, so it shouldn't be a big change :)
- buy toilet paper made from recycled paper: many companies actually sell affordable TP made from recycled paper. My bum definitely does NOT need to have chemicals from all the bleached, brand spankin' new paper.
- have eco-soap like "attitude" or a locally made bar of soap (like Birchbark!)
- use eco-cleaning products like "Ecover" or "Seventh Generation"
- replace lights with CFL's
- offer water and lemon juice in a spray bottle with washable cloths to wipe down mats
- have soy or beeswax candles to decrease petroleum in the air we breathe.

Extra Ideas that involve a bit more change but are SO forward thinking:
- compost/recycle. This one should be EASY for Haligonian studios to do- composting and recycling programs are already in place and regulated by law. People are used to seeing separate bins labeled compost, plastic, paper with little pictures demonstrating examples for each.
- Offer carpooling or bicycling incentives: perhaps a discount card earning a free class.
- Advertise ride-shares or bus schedules on a community bulletin so students can carpool or take public transit.
- only sell environmentally friendly yoga-mats/accessories: cork blocks or manduka/jade mats.
- DON'T throw out old mats, find ways to reuse them or donate them!

Fantastical Ideas that I can only wish for:
- have the studio painted in low or zero VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) paint.
- have flooring made from sustainable (bamboo, cork) or even better; reclaimed wood
- stock the studio with cork or bamboo blocks and eco-mats
- Limit paper schedules and advertisements, most people have the internet now anyways. Those that you do print- print on recycled paper.
- have water efficient toilets and sinks.
- use renewable energy for heating and lights- solar, wind or water generated.

In a perfect world... 



  1. I know what you mean... I too feel that my yoga practice has lead me to think in terms of how everything is connected, and as such how all of my actions affect other living things. From this has spawned a resolve to tread as lightly on the earth as possible.

    I feel that as we expand on our own spiritual journey, we imagine that our growing wisdom and knowledge would be well-known to our teachers, and it can be disheartening at first to see that our teachers may not emanate all that we imagine they do. This happens to me a lot with people in general, but yes mainly because I project my high expectations onto them. I've tried to think of it as a lesson in compassion and learning that we are all equal.

    I am going to need a new yoga mat soon, and your blog has definitely inspired me to make a very conscious decision!

    To the yoga journey, self-improvement and 'involution'!!

  2. This was a great post. I don't have a studio...but, it gives me huge ideas on how to be more eco-conscious in my own home. Thank you.

    And actually, it inspires me to mention these ideas to the Yogis that run the studio I go to.

    Peace & Love.

  3. Hi there! I just discovered your blog, in the way that so often happens online, one link leads to another. Anyway, I just wanted to say as a fellow Canadian eco-yogini, I can totally relate to this post!
    I did a yoga training last fall and listened in horror as the instructor called people who cared about the environment 'trendy' and just jumping on the green bandwagon. He went on to say that people who worry about plastic bags and paper coffee cups are extreme. This was in response to a group exercise which involved using a number of single use plastic items, that were thrown out immediately after the exercise.
    It didn't seem very yogic to me.
    Anyway, nice to discover your blog and looking forward to reading more!

  4. It does seem sort of odd that a practice that inspires interconnection doesn't automatically lead to more of a desire to tread lightly on the earth. Although I guess yoga comes to mean different things to different people and not everyone is open to the idea of deep interconnection among all things and beings. Is the 'teacher worship' thing very common in yoga? The only thing I have by way of comparison is how it works in our tai chi classes, where the instructor is seen only as a transmitter of knowledge, not as a repository of knowledge. It definitely sets up a different type of dynamic. That being said, our group has only moved to reusable tea cups just last year.

  5. Hi Amber!
    So glad that you enjoy the blog :)
    wow- that's crazy that at a yoga training course the instructor went on a rant re:environmentally concerned individuals. It would have been enough for me to walk out. (but then yoga training is so expensive...). I guess it's something that you can make a difference in your studio!

    As far as I can tell here in Halifax (especially from the Yoga Loft experiences) instructors have a following of people- like they are gurus. My friend did say that at her training it was a topic discussed at length. I like the "transmitter vs repository" idea.

    Every step can make a difference. :)


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