Swami Prembhava Saraswati

Now, perhaps more than at any time in the history of the human race, we are going to need a lot of strength. It was just in June this year that the brilliant scientist Stephen Hawking made a release to the scientific community and to the media.

According to him we have a maximum of 200 years until we have to look for another planet to call home.

He said due to our population growth, the level of consumption and pollution, the amount of junk we have thrown into the rivers, the oceans and the atmosphere, and the amount of degradation we have done to the forests we don't have much time left on the earth. This was a strong warning for everybody. We have to make a change to our life styles and to live with awareness and connection to the earth. For this reason, as part of the Second Chapter of BSY, Swami Niranjanananda is now teaching the practice and philosophy of yoga ecology.

An unhealthy world

Yoga ecology is not a new science or branch of yoga, it is yoga, and it is as old as humans have walked this earth. The basis of yoga ecology is that we are interconnected and totally dependent on the elements that surround us, the tattwas.

In yoga we don't only look at the external environment. The five tattwas are a part of our body, mind and character. If we are serious about yoga and our practice, then purification has to be internal and external.

The five tattwas are earth, water, fire, air and ether, and our bodies are composed of the very same tattwas. We can only survive without air for a maximum of three minutes, after that the body shuts down. Yet the air we breathe now is polluted and we are becoming sick.

One in five children in the USA have asthma, and people don't even recognize that it might be a sign that something is wrong. In my childhood, it was rare for any child to have asthma. Today in classrooms it is common to see many children with inhalers for asthma. These children should be 'the canary in the coal mine' warning us to make dramatic changes to our situation - but we don't.

In most cities around the world you cannot drink the water from the taps anymore; it is too polluted with the wastes of our society. People wonder why different diseases such as cancer are increasing in society, when it should be so obvious that we are polluting ourselves. We think we are a very intelligent species but there is not another species on the planet that would pollute their own water or food.

Realize the connection

As soon as people start to practise yoga, simple asana or pranayama, there will be a change in their awareness and they will be more aware of their environment. If you call yourself a yogi, then you will be aware of your environment. You may even call yourself a greenie and have compost and recycling bins. Who has a compost? Who recycles their plastic and paper? Not many! This should be a part of our daily lives. Every single one of us is responsible and has to change their lifestyle to a simple life with minimum impact on the earth ecosystems.

This morning some of us went for a walk on the beach and we were walking amongst plastic! It was scattered over the entire beach and people were walking their dogs amongst the plastic. I didn't see one person bend down and pick up any of that rubbish, for nobody is willing to take responsibility. I don't know where all that plastic has come from, maybe it is from Uruguay, but more than likely it has washed up on the beach, maybe from Australia, Africa, Europe; it just depends on the currents of the ocean. We are all connected. We are connected by the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. Nature and Mother Earth don't put boundaries like we humans do. Countries, borders and fences mean very little to her.

The first step in yoga ecology is to realize we are all connected and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves. That is a teaching that the indigenous people around the world have known for thousands of years, whether it is the Australian aborigines, the North American Indians, the Mayans, or the people of vedic times. Modern society has forgotten that connection and we are suffering.

Change of attitude

Now science and the environmentalists are coming back to that same understanding of inter connectedness that the indigenous people have known for generations. When I was studying environmental science twenty years ago, the environmentalists were predicting climate change and global warming They said if we didn't start to cut down on carbon emissions we would face serious consequences globally. The Kyoto Protocol was created to reduce carbon emissions and many other positive actions took place. There has been some change but not enough. Today the environmentalists are saying they have failed. They have not been able to change the human mentality and people are still driven by consumerism, power, position and economics.

Swami Niranjanananda says that the environmental degradation we are experiencing now is due to our decadent and materialistic lifestyles. If we want to see the earth for the generations in the future, then we have to shift from the material dimension to the spiritual dimension and find a balance between the two.

He says we have borrowed this earth from the future generations - your children and your children's children and your children's, children's, children. It is our responsibility to return the earth back to them in a better state than we have lived with.

As individuals we have to make the effort in our daily lives to change our whole awareness and understanding of our place on the earth. That is the path of yoga ecology. To reconnect with nature, we have to understand our total dependence and connection with nature and tune into the divinity of mother nature in the world around us. To do this we have to change our daily routine and awareness.

Yoga ecology and yoga lifestyle go hand in hand. Yoga lifestyle is an ecological lifestyle. You cannot learn yoga lifestyle in a classroom. You cannot go to a yoga class on a Thursday night and then live the rest of your life in your normal sloppy, plastic way. Yoga has to become your way of living, your way of understanding and relating to the world around you - starting with asana, pranayama and meditation practice. The practices of yoga connect us to prakriti, nature, by their very design, because the yogis lived within nature and observed the world around them. They learnt from the birds, the trees, the animals, the bees and they designed the practices we use today.

For happiness and peace

When you did titali asana, the butterfly posture, the looks on your faces were beautiful, there were sweet little smiles on all faces, and I could see butterflies moving everywhere and definitely with that awareness the legs were moving up and down freely, there was no tension in the hips.

When we perform prana yama like bhramari, the bumble bee breath, it is a natural sound and vibration within the brain, which bring about deep relaxation, unlike the sounds of cars and mobile phones beeping. Different sounds affect the mind in a different way, and if the mind is agitated with different sounds how can we possibly tune into nature and feel the divinity in nature?

To communicate with nature, the mind must be quiet and still, only then will we hear the beauty of the wind, the song of the birds, and the sound of the ocean. This is what brings us happiness. If you really connect with nature then you are never alone, you are always happy. But we have removed ourselves so much from nature that it is very difficult to find peace and happiness.

In yoga ecology we perform the asana and pranayama practices with a different awareness. Yoga practice does not have to be about my body, my muscles, my digestive system. I am relaxing my body and mind so that I affect the world around me in a positive way. After you all performed these practices anyone who had entered this room would have experienced the peace and quiet within this room. By simply practising yoga you affect your environment around you. You affect everyone who comes in contact with you because a happy and peaceful person makes other people happy and peaceful. It is that simple.

13 August 2017, Satyananda Darshan, Uruguay