Sustainability from the Inside Out


by Kristina Pugh

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We live in an extraordinary moment on Earth. We possess more technical prowess and knowledge than our ancestors would have dared to dream. Our telescopes let us see through time to the beginnings of the universe; our microscopes pry open the codes at the core of organ life; our satellites reveal global weather patterns and hidden behaviors of remote nations; and our electronic surveillance capacity leaves no aspect of anyone’s life safe from corporate and governmental scrutiny. Who could have imagined such immensity of information and power?

At the same time, we witness destruction of life in dimensions that confronted no previous generation in recorded history. Certainly our ancestors knew wars, plagues, and famine, but today it is not just a forest here and some farmlands and fisheries there. Today entire species are dying, and whole cultures, and ecosystems on a global scale, even to the oxygen-producing plankton of our seas.

We’ve come so far. The life that is in us has survived and evolved through so many challenges, and there is so much promise still to unfold-yet we can lose it all as the web of living systems unravels. Sustainability is found ingrained in a number of traditional societies and is demonstrated through their belief systems and practice.

Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children; we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
— Native American Proverb

This Native American Proverb succinctly summarizes the principles of what we call sustainable development today, which has gained considerable prominence in the last 20 years. We can still choose life. Even as we face an overwhelming amount of disruption and destruction, we can act for the sake of a livable world. And it starts on your mat. We start by sustaining our Selves through our practice and through our connection to the communities that support us. But it cannot be without remembering and recognizing the incredible power of Pachamama, our Great Mother Earth, the mother of all who holds each of our lives with as much care as we hold our own families and lives.

Yoga Sustainability

So what is the Yoga of Sustainability? Why should modern yogis care about sustainability? From our mats, to props, to heaters and lights in studios, to what we arrive at class in or on, to the food that we use to nourish ourselves, every aspect of yoga practice and life is inseparable from the Earth and Cosmic Consciousness, which are the foundations of all our endeavors. Beginning a life of sustainable living involves living as lightly on the Earth as possible.

Let this be a call to all of us movers and seekers to begin to observe our habits of living, asking yourself and those around you, how can we begin to live a life that sustains the Earth and allows us to embody the practices physically and, in our livable actions?