Our Planet, Our Health

It was World Health Day on Thursday, 7 April. The focus for 2022: “Our Planet, Our Health.” The World Health Organisation (WHO) asked us to remember the Earth as an integral part to our health and wellbeing. As stated on the WHO website: “Climate crisis is a health crisis.” This year, we are encouraged to focus on the big picture, or planet, connected with our own health and wellness.

The WHO provided facts on the impact heat waves, fires, floods and pollution have on health around the world. I’m not going to reiterate what we see on websites, in news headlines and on social media. I like to think this community is already well aware of the situations we are facing if we do not implement changes for the better. We have already experienced enough recent examples in Australia.

What I’m looking at in this blog post is consumables in yoga. Until I really started listing things out, did I realise there were so many opportunities for making a positive difference for the environment. What are things that we should consider when making our next yoga related purchase?

Looking at the Yoga Sutras, an authoritative text on Yoga, we can be reminded of some yogic ethics that can give us an idea of what we can do as yoga practitioners to make a positive change. My particular focus for today is in one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga: the Yamas (Sutra II:30). Here are three of the five Yamas, along with an example to consider when eyeing up a new purchase. I’ll use a yoga mat as a point of reference.

  • Ahimsa, Non-Harming. How can we reduce or even cease harm to our environment, so that we can have better health and well-being into the future? When purchasing a yoga mat for the first time or a replacement mat, what is going to happen with the mat at the end of its use? Mats made of PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) or TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomers) should be low on your list of choice. These kinds of mats could be sitting in landfill for many years if thrown out. If you have one of these mats, maybe you could donate it to be upcycled or recycled by a business that specifically accepts these used products. You could repurpose it at home, for example, folded up as a knee rest when gardening. The best choice is to find one made with resources that biodegrade over time.
  • Asteya, Non-Stealing. When choosing a product, are the materials from environmentally sustainable sources or were the resources “stolen” from native animal habitats? An example would be rubber trees used in creating yoga mats with rubber in their composition. When choosing a mat, ask if the materials that made the mat came from replenishable resources. If we are harvesting trees from one plot, there should be another plot taking its place to reduce deforestation and create a renewable resource for harvests in the future.
  • Aparigrahah, Non-Coveting or an absence of greed. This is an easy question for anyone who has their regular mat, their travel mat and the mat that had better grip than the first mat: “Do I really need another yoga mat?” We live in a supply to meet demand world. We will keep filling landfill with used mats and other things if we want the latest or what she/he/they had. Consider your mat purchase carefully if you want to do your part in reducing waste. You get a mat you love and have no mat comparison envy or buyers remorse.

In summary, we need to choose materials wisely, reduce waste by repurposing or reusing the mats elsewhere, and only buy what you need over greed (or what I sometimes call “grabby hands”).

Here are other things you may come across as a student, teacher or studio owner to review in your consumables list. How can we choose the most environmentally friendly option for some of these items? Just like we start out with small and attainable steps towards our health goals, let’s keep working towards the health of our planet. Oh, and this list is not fully comprehensive, so add your own in too if you make one.

  • Clothing: Yoga pants, other exercise pants, tops, grip socks, jumpers, accessories.
  • Practice Equipment: Yoga mat, yoga blocks, yoga straps, blankets, bolsters, towels, other yoga props.
  • Studios: Lighting, heating, water usage, studio practice equipment, merchandise or other stock, cleaning materials (for the studio, studio equipment, and bathrooms), kitchen materials if refreshments are offered, instruments (singing bowls, gongs, chimes), and miscellaneous items (incense, sage, essential oils, candles).

Thanks for reading!


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