Ecology is a branch of natural sciences which deals with organisms and their relationship to each other as well as their surroundings. Yoga is a science and a practice which allows us to be more in tune with ourselves and our surrounds in a harmonious manner. 

Prakriti is nature and earth is a vital component of external nature. Earth, one of the pancha bhutas or five elements plays a vital role in our existence and survival. Though other elements – water, wind, fire and space are important, our body and planet earth are composed of mass, or earth. Fruits, vegetables, grains, etc., which we eat grow on earth and we literally consume earth in order to maintain our system. From the Yoga perspective, we are part earth; whatever we consume from earth turns into fuel for the system. Therefore, preserving our habitat is akin to preserving ourselves. 

Ecological principles as we know today are embedded within Maharishi Patanjali’s Ashta-anga Yoga, or the eight-limbed path. For example, the first two steps – Yama and Niyama stress discipline towards ourselves and others, and this discipline includes concepts which are relevant to ecology.  Contentment, non-coveting, regulating greed, and showing reverence to the larger existence can be applied to ecology. 

In order for us to live in harmony with nature we could examine our attitudes toward political issues such as the environment and climate change. Are our behaviors in congruence with ecology, harmony and Yoga? Deforestation, contamination of land and water due to industry waste and disposing of other harmful pollutants lead to scientific challenges and general disharmony. Yogic principles of preservation, discipline towards the earth – planting trees, agroforestry, use of solar and wind power, preventing desertification, being mindful about plastic use, awareness about carbon footprint, conserving soil, etc., highlight our interconnectedness with our planet.

It seems that Yoga is driven by consumerism and capitalism given the excessive focus on business and economic aspects of the practice. However, the natural connection between Yoga and the environment is still at the core of Yoga and therefore highly relevant in present times. Most Yoga asanas names are derived from nature. Vrukshasana (tree pose), Matsyendrasana (fish pose), Parvatasana (mountain pose), Ustrasana (camel pose), Baddhakonasana (butterfly pose). This is not by accident; nature and ecology are essential to Yoga. 

Yoga Ecology is a budding movement which focuses on elevating our consciousness toward our surroundings. The Pancha Bhutas and the forces of nature are not some obscure concepts; they affect us in many ways. They very much influence our internal and external environment. Thus, it’s important to understand the cosmic relevance of nature and its influence on our day-to-day life.   
Protection and preservation as well as reverence towards ecology is essentially Yoga. As nations begin to face issues regarding land irrigation and water shortages, we might see a surge of change in environmental policies from around the world.  

Image: ©Akil Mazumder

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