Yoga is an intrinsically green practice; however, in modern times, yoga materials, studios and practices have become less green. There are many things that yoga practitioners can do to bring the green back into their daily routines. Eco-friendly mats, green practices within yoga studios, and an overall life philosophy of living in balance with the earth are all ways to make yoga a more earth-friendly activity.
Core principles of yoga include unity with mind, body and soul, and oneness with all creatures on earth. By its definition, yoga should be green. Yoga is a philosophy and practice that is thousands of years old. It involves a way of thinking and being, as well as various poses with corresponding themes. One staple of yoga practice, the yoga mat, is generally made of PVC plastic—or polyvinyl chloride—one of the most toxic plastics available. It does not biodegrade, and it is not healthy to be around, as it gives off harmful fumes. This doesn’t fit with yoga’s “one with nature” ideal.
Green Yoga From the Bottom, Up
Mainstream yoga can go green. It just takes a few changes to “business as usual.” First, yoga studios can provide or sell green yoga mat. There are several types of green yoga mats on the market for yoga practitioners. Some are made of natural jute fiber and natural rubber. Barefoot yoga makes a mat out of TPE foam, which is a non-toxic, biodegradable plastic. Some practitioners advocate leaving the mat behind and practicing barefoot on non-slippery surfaces. Practicing yoga without a mat builds even more core strength than yoga practice with a mat.
Green Yoga Studios
Yoga studios can lead the way toward greener practices. When building a new studio, consider eco-friendly materials such as bamboo flooring, recycled denim insulation, and radiant heating. For established studios, small steps can make a big difference. Encourage students to bring reusable, refillable water bottles. Keep a water cooler from which students may refill their bottles. For those with disposable drinking containers, provide recycling bins. Stock bathrooms with recycled paper towels, toilet paper and other eco-friendly products. Clean the studio with non-toxic cleaners as well. Use energy-efficient lighting, and provide mats made of natural fibers. Put up carpool boards so that students can share rides to the studio.
Return to Traditional Yoga
Traditional yoga practices are inherently green. Georg and Brenda Feurstein write in their book Green Yoga that yoga is a spiritual practice, as well as a physical practice, and that living yoga means living sustainably, not just practicing yoga postures. Their book relays that green yoga has two ethical pillars:
Karma-yoga, the path of self-transcending action, and the Mahâyâna Buddhist ideal of the bodhisattva, the practitioner who is committed to spiritual altruism through the cultivation of bodhicitta, which is focusing the mind on liberation of all beings.
They write that “Green yoga, like all traditional yoga, is a sustained exercise in personal integration—the harmonization of head and heart, will and action, inside and outside.”
Truly green yoga combines spiritual and physical practices together toward treading ever more lightly on the earth, and reaching understanding and harmony within oneself and with the outside world.