Swami Prembhava Saraswati

Yoga ecology is not a new science, it is as old as yoga, as old as the earth, it is a wisdom known for generations. Swami Niranjanananda is reviving and teaching these yogic practices as we need them now more than any time before. There is no point in talking of self-realization and meditation if there is no clean water and air. The indigenous people of the planet have always known this, whether it is the aboriginal people of Australia, the Indians of South and North America or the vedic traditions of India, they all understand our connection to nature.

The yoga ecology practices come from the vedic tradition and they are designed to reconnect to and communicate with nature.

The firststep in yoga ecology is to live a yogic lifestyle which is an ecological lifestyle. When I firstleft India Swami Niranjan gave me one message to tell everybody; and it was something very simple, 'Tell everyone to make the effort to see the sunrise every day. This is the basic teaching of yogic lifestyle. There is nothing complicated about it; in fact, it is the simplest lifestyle. Rise early, eat properly, sleep properly and live with less. To rise with the sun tunes the body into the natural bio rhythmsof nature. It makes the most of every day and keeps the body and mind healthy and balanced.

Our tradition

Our tradition and the teaching of Swami Sivananda are also very simple. His main teaching was 'Be good, Do good, Be kind, Be compassionate'. He also gave this beautiful advice to all aspirants:

Smile with the flowers and the green grass, play with the birds and the deer, shake hands with the ferns and twigs and talk to the rainbow, wind, stars and sun, converse with the running brooks and waves of the sea, develop friendship with all your neighbours, the dogs, cats, cows, trees and flowers, then you will have a wide and perfect life.

Swami Sivananda taught an integral yoga and encouraged people to live the divine life. At the time he was living in Rishikesh there was World War 1 and World War 2. He saw the suffering of people and made yoga accessible to everybody. He encouraged people around the world to practise yoga for the health of body and mind through a balanced yoga practice for head, heart and hands.

He encouraged his sannyasins to travel the world over teaching yoga. One of his sannyasins, our guru Swami Satyananda, was given the mandate to spread yoga 'from door to door and shore to shore' and for twenty years Swami Satyananda taught yoga across the globe. He showed people that yoga was something for everybody and he encouraged the teachings of head, heart and hands.

Swami Satyananda inspired people to spend time in the yoga ashram to experience the whole yogic life, to experience hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, the full wheel of yoga.

Swami Satyananda also gave us the science of yajna which he said was vital for the ecological systems of the earth. Now yoga has definitely spread 'from door to door and shore to shore' so much so that we have the International Day of Yoga. Yoga has become a household name but if you ask anyone what yoga is today, they will tell you it is stretching and doing strange body postures. Yoga has become a purely physical exercise. There is hot yoga, cold yoga, dog yoga, surf yoga; you will find any kind of yoga.

Swami Niranjan has now begun the 2nd Chapter of Bihar School of Yoga and he said it is time for us who are serious in our yoga practice to deepen our understanding of yoga. Yoga must become a sadhana and a lifestyle. You cannot learn yoga in a classroom, you can learn asana, pranayama, meditation and philosophy in the classroom but to really live yoga, you have to make yoga a lifestyle. The best place to do that is in a yoga ashram. If you spend one week, one year, five years or twenty years, only then will you realize what is yoga. Then you can take the light of yoga out into society which is what people need now more than anything.

Yoga lifestyle

People believe 'having more stuff is going to make me happy'. The world is ruled by consumerism and economic growth. All the consumer products come from the resources of the planet and when we are finished with it where do we throw it? Back to the earth. In a million years, there will be a layer of plastic on the earth and we will be remembered as the plastic era.

A yogic life is a simple life. We don't need so much and our houses don't need to be cluttered. If you come to the ashram you will see that it is very plain and simple. This keeps the mind sattwic and clear, and you are free of all your material accumulation. Yet still, we attract stuff, it seems to be the nature of human beings. Maybe tonight you can go home and clear out some of your excess stuff and you will find that as you clean the environment around you the internal environment is also cleansed.

This is where yoga takes the environmental movement further: we can recycle our things, switch off the lights, turn off the tap and save electricity and water, and we have to do those things. But we have to go one step further and purify the environment within us, the microcosm. The five elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether - support our very life. In yoga we have the tattwas within us, and the purification of the external and the internal tattwas has to happen at the same time. We cannot sit back and complain about the state of the environment if there is no effort to purify ourselves.

As the mind is purified the environment around us naturally follows, and this process happens as soon as people start practising yoga. Yoga by its very nature increases our awareness and connects us to the environment around us. Otherwise how can we be aware of the environment if we are forever on our mobile phones and stuck in the spiral of the mind that just spins around and around all day long. Simple asana and pranayama increase our level of awareness to make us aware of the world around us.

As we practise yogasana we will explore the animal postures and the tree pose. People may think that it is for children only. The yogis, however, lived with nature and they studied nature. The yogasana by their very design connect us to a particular form of nature. It is only our obsession with our bodies, the alignment of the spine, digestion and menstrual problems, which is limiting us from experiencing the full effect and purpose of the asana.

In all aspects of our life we have forgotten we are the earth and are totally interconnected and dependent upon the earth. Even in our yoga practice we have forgotten that.

Pranayama encourages us to breathe properly but we have forgotten where the breath comes from as the rainforests are being cut down at an acre a minute. These are the lungs of the planet and provide us with the air to breathe. As soon as people start practising pranayama they realize the importance of clean air and breath.

If we practised the yama and niyama we would not be in the mental, emotional, social and environmental mess we are now, but nobody has been practising real yoga. As we forge into the 2nd Chapter of yoga we need to establish yoga as a sadhana and live yoga as a lifestyle which will help us to reconnect and communicate with nature.

12 August 2017, Villa Garcia, Montevideo, Uruguay