A post from Leena!
All over North America this weekend communities turned off their lights and celebrated Earth Hour. It is special to turn off the lights, and important to have time set aside to be aware of the power we take for granted for an hour each year. And, I think our yoga practice has the possibility helping to shift our relationship to the planet in a much more long-term way.
We move at such a fast pace, and culturally are surrounded by so much input in terms of mental, visual stimulation, and auditory stimulation that our nervous systems are running in sympathetic (fight or flight) overdrive much of the time. At the same time, we’re a sedentary culture that, on the whole, has quite low levels of somatic awareness and physical activity. We’ve structured our food and housing systems, and our water and energy collection into such large scales that most of us have very little contact with the raw materials that sustain us. As a result, many of us find our relationships, our health, and our livelihoods have become volatile and quite literally ungrounded. Most of us do not intimately know the ground that supports, nourishes, sustains our lives.
Embodied practices like yoga and meditation can help us shift these patterns on both small and potentially large scales. Our practice is a place to s l o w d o w n, to connect with our bodies, to experience the interconnectedness of our physicality to our mind and heart (embodiment). Yoga has been proven and experienced to have profound effects the central nervous system, helping it to settle and become more resilient. Yoga lures us out of the hyperactive fight or flight state and into a state of rest, digest, and calm that can only happens when the parasympathetic nervous system is allowed to take over. In this state we can heal. We can heal our relationships to our bodies, and begin to heal our relationship to the earth that we are made of.
If we slow down, we can make better food choices for the planet and ourselves opting for local foods and organic when available, and make more foods from scratch with less packaging and preservatives. When we’re not in hyperactive stress we have the mental space to remember to turn off the lights when we leave a room every hour, not just during Earth Hour. If we heal our bodies and nourish them well we will have more energy, and could opt to bike or walk rather than drive. When we’re more grounded, we might also experience greater spaciousness to listen and connect with our loved ones. Healing our relationships and being better able work collaboratively with each other enables us to together find solutions to the challenges facing our communities, locally and globally.
On a personal note, after only several minutes of sitting down to write this, my mind began to flicker to other things. Numerous times I felt an impulse, like a spasm in my mind and a jump in my chest, to check if any new emails or Facebook posts had arrived in my inbox. Like in yoga practice, I observed that impulse and the sensations that came with it, took a deep breath, relaxed my shoulders, and re-centered myself to keep writing. This practice of noticing, of slowing down, of staying focused on one thing at a time is not something easy for me and for many of my generation. Yet, it truly is worthwhile and perhaps even fundamental if we are to heal our bodies, our communities, and our interconnected relationship to the planet.