Yoga and Nature
By Joanna Bertzeletos
The biggest killer in the 21st Century
Over 20 years ago I studied 'Ecology of Health' and as part of this course I had to write an assignment on what the general health of people would be like in the 21st Century. As clear as if it were yesterday I still remember the statistics the World Health Organisation predicted for the early part of the 21st Century. That one in three people will suffer from stress related illness and that this would be the biggest killer.
Here we are in the early part of the 21st Century and the prediction has indeed become a fact. The majority of people you speak to describe themselves as being stressed, having no time, a bad diet and being generally unhappy and in poor health. We have high levels of blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, loneliness and depression etc. There are high levels of substance abuse both legal and illegal. All of these are stress related illnesses.
DIS-harmony / DIS-ease
You begin to wonder why this DIS-harmony and DIS-ease is occurring in the majority of the world. To the extent that even our children are suffering from it. There is no time to play, to enjoy simply lying on the earth and watching the clouds float by, to watch a flower as it slowly blooms or to learn how to climb a tree. Indeed there is no time to walk bare foot over a meadow or to wade in a river.
If we look at the word disease... what is causing us to not be at ease, to be causing the DIS-ease? Our bodies are not well, our society is diseased, our live stocks and crops are also in DIS-harmony. But let us just look at the human factor, we are not a well people and when we look at what is causing this DIS-ease it is attributed to the lifestyle we lead.
The plague of box-living
City living has its advantages but also DIS-connects us from our earth mother. This DIS-connection from the earth is harming both the people and Gaia. After all we have a symbiotic relationship with each other and this has now become severed. In fact you know when our DIS-connection with the earth has occurred when young peoples' reaction to walking bare footed on the earth is "that’s disgusting and gross Miss." Or when adult walkers in Padley Gorge see you bare foot and they say in a joking, hesitant way, “You're brave, rather you than me.” Since when has dirt, mud, and walking on the earth with your soles been disgusting, gross or a brave act? This surely is cleaner than living in a polluted city and eating all the chemical food we eat.
Through my experience of teaching yoga I have noticed that there is a clear DIS-comfort when you ask people to do yoga in bare feet. They look at you a bit anxiously and with great hesitancy they take their shoes off and then slowly after a few weeks of attending classes they may progress to taking their socks off. Asking young people to do yoga bare footed in a hall let alone go walking outside in the countryside has become a great challenge. They have a great fear that they may catch something!
This reluctance to feel the earth with your feet is of great concern to me. Such a simple act can mean so much. The barrier between you and the earth that is created by keeping shoes and socks on indicates how DIS-connected we are with what is natural. Why do we have a fear of Gaia? Our lives consist of living in a box, traveling in a box to go to another box to work on the PC box and then returning to the box to relax in front of a variety of boxes. Even our meals are now cooked in a box. We want our gardens to be low maintenance so we cement them over to enable us to park our cars on them instead.
Yoga and nature
We need to relearn what we have lost in just a few generations. We need to start off with the simple steps of getting to know our bodies, how they work and how we interact with ourselves, the space around us and then nature. Yoga connects us with all these different levels and then with Gaia. By developing our self-awareness of our body through yoga we explore how we are linked to the earth beneath us and the environment around us.
Dru Yoga is based on Hatha teachings but added to the Hatha asanas are a number of flowing sequences, Energy Block Releases and breath work thus enabling the energy to flow freely throughout the body. When we flow freely we become deeply attuned to Gaia, we reconnect with the earth and the environment. Sadly a lot of us have lost this connection due to modern city living. This harmonising can have very powerful effects. For example, the standing foundation pose of yoga, Tadasana (Mountain Pose), teaches us not only how to stand in the correct alignment and breath fully but also links people to the earth through the feet and legs. You allow the earth energy to travel up through the souls of the feet, into the legs, through the spine, spilling out through the crown of your head into the sky. You feel secure with strong, deep roots into the earth, firmly holding you down but at the same time feeling the freedom and expansiveness of the sky, sun, stars, moon and galaxy above you. You stand in your own power in the centre of the universe and know you can achieve anything you put your mind to.
From a stationary pose and having tuned into yourself we then move into a beautiful flowing sequence, such as the Earth, Sun or Moon Sequence (Prithvi, Surya or Chandra Namaskar being their respective Sanskrit names), the Seat of Compassion Sequence or Salutations to the Four Directions, and there are many more. Each posture, sequence and breathing exercise is done with reverence, beauty and grace. It is a way of communicating respect and gratitude for what we have. Each also has its own subtle energy or power that goes with it because each one works the body in a slightly different way, therefore impacting on different emotions and thought patterns.
As your yoga practice develops you will find yourself freeing up. You may even notice that you start to let go of certain fears or habits. It is like a feeling of coming home, being comfortable with who you are and knowing to respect yourself and our environment, our mother earth. Connecting on all our levels, knowing ourselves, our family, our community, our city, our Earth and our Gaia.