Those of you who have been practising yoga for a while will likely have come to realise that Yoga is more than just stretching.
The Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ translates to union and connection.
Due to busy lifestyles and the demands of day to day life, many of us are disconnected from our bodies, from each other and from nature.
We so easily get trapped inside our heads, worrying, stressing and planning for the future. We often forget to be present, to notice our breath, to listen to the rustling of the trees and feel the warmth of the sun on our skin.
By getting to know our bodies and connecting to our breath in our practice, we start to rebuild this connection with our bodies and, ultimately, our deep connection to each other and the world around us.
Nature in the Yogic Tradition
Many Yogic texts show an honouring of nature. We can see this, for example, through the many postures named after animals (crow, cobra) and nature being represented through the Hindu gods (Agni – The God of fire, Vayu the God of Wind).
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas, or ethical guidelines, within many systems of Yoga. Ahimsa translates to non harming or non-violence and it is at the heart of practising yoga, both on and off the mat. When we act with ‘Ahimsa’ in mind, this means not causing harm to others, ourselves, or nature. Ahimsa shows a deep honouring of our planet and all those that inhabit it, seeing animals as equals and plants and trees full of prana or life force.
When teaching my own classes, I often refer to nature ‘as our greatest teacher’. For example, when exploring feeling grounded, we look to the humble tree; the wind may shake the branches but, in most cases, the trunk holds. The tree has strong roots in order to flourish above.
Yoga, nature and connection
I imagine we’ve all experienced that profound feeling of calm, a sense of belonging and comfort that stepping away from our busy lives and being out in nature can bring. Nature is in our nature! We are nature and this is why we feel a particular resonance with it, a sense of being home.
Before all the distractions of modern life, we lived in connection with nature. We slept when the sun went down, spent most of our days outside and drank from the streams. Nature compliments our Yoga practice as it’s the place we were originally us; our true selves, us as human beings before all the distractions and demands of modern life drew us further and further away.
Nature under threat
After teaching my Yoga classes, my favourite thing to do is to take a stroll in the local Weekly Hall Woods and meadows. There’s something about the trees, sky and fresh air that instantly makes me feel calm and encourages me to get out of my head. I love the peace and gratitude I experience as I move my body in nature. I’ve even had the opportunity to teach classes outside that overlook the beautiful woodland and they have felt truly special.
I felt inspired to write this as this area of nature that provides joy to many is at threat. There are plans in place that look to take down Weekly Hall wood and replace it with more warehouses/distribution centres. The application, if approved, will result in the deforestation and industrialisation of an area that provides peace and connection to so many people, from runners and dog walkers to those looking for a slice of peace out from their busy day.
These strange times over the past few months have highlighted the need for access to open space and the natural environment and we need this connection to ourselves, each other and nature more now than ever. Is taking down entire woodland practising ahimsa? Is it honouring our deeply rooted connection to nature?
What can you do to support?
You can head over to https://saveweekleyhallwood.com/what-can-i-do/ to sign their petition to object to the planning application or type ‘saveweekleyhallwood’ on social media for more information and more ways to get involved.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the connection between yoga and nature for you. Do you ever practice outside? Have you enjoyed a walk round Weekly Hall Wood after class? Do you have a favourite animal or nature themed pose?