- By Sannyasi Gyanhira
Yoga Ecology is beginning to take the spotlight as the next crucial role of Yoga in our evolution, health, happiness and survival as a species and planet. Together Yoga, often translated as "unity," and Ecology, defined as the relationship of organisms to one another and their physical surroundings, come together to indicate the mutually interconnected nature of ourselves with our fellow humans and the environment. For better or for worse, our actions, thoughts, desires, decisions, and feelings are impacting each other and the environment all the time.
When I think about what Yoga Ecology means to me, it ultimately comes down to a fundamental shifting of perspective from "Me" the self-centred individual to "We" the society and beyond, while also striving to find a healthy balance between the two. Helping our children to see and feel through the filter of "We" is going to be the task of today's parents to ensure that our children have a beautiful tomorrow. Yet, before we can help our children to think, see and feel as a "We," we parents have to do this internal work first. Because we know that our children often learn best by observing, and not by listening (at least that is the case with my kids!).
2020 has been a big year in terms of perceptual shifts. It's many challenges have forced us to acknowledge that we are all profoundly connected. Not just in theory anymore, but actually. Undeniably. Connected.
The rampant wildfires of 2020, among other events, have made a deafening announcement about our interconnectivity on this planet. The global warming that is taking place as a result of recent human activity has produced an exponentially more destructive wildfire season. The land has burned out of control, taking life, devastating ecosystems, and sending cloaks of thick, choking smoke around the globe, plummeting air quality in some parts beyond the worst rating available on the Air Quality Index. We quickly gained a new appreciation and value for what we most often took for granted: clean, breathable air.
The Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted the truth of our profound interconnectedness in myriad ways, from our dependence on essential workers for our survival (think food, goods, medicine, vaccine development, healthcare), to the need of childcare and a healthy economy for employment, to the previously unnoticed and extraordinarily intimate connection between the breath of persons in near proximity, to the utter dependence upon others to put individual wants and desires aside to stay home and save lives. What's more, we have begun to notice that technology is not enough to connect us; Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, SnapChat, whatever platform it may be, is not enough. We NEED the real thing. We miss each other amidst the necessary lockdown and social distancing restrictions. We are longing for each other. At long last, we want to put the phone down, look up, take the ear buds out, turn the TV or video game off and be in each other's presence. For real. We find ourselves texting less and phoning, Zooming and FaceTiming our parents, grandparents and friends more. We want more of each other, not less.
Why is this value in one another increasing? We are recovering an appreciation for each other that had, for a moment, become lost in digital connection. We are remembering and appreciating how valuable the real human connection is. And recovering and nurturing this value in both each other and Nature is going to be key. These are the lessons we are learning in 2020 that may end up being our most important legacy to our children. Valuing. Appreciating. Conserving. Protecting. Sacrificing. Balancing.
In the end, we all win from a "We" perspective; the individual is part of the collective. The individual also lives among Nature, and is a part of Nature. If we all operate from a "Me" perspective, sooner or later there won't be enough for "We" anymore, and then it's only a matter of time until there is no longer enough for "Me." No man is an island, and the pandemic has shown us this. The wildfires have shouted this.
So, the question becomes, how can we embody this new appreciation of each other and the environment so that children, too, can imbibe and understand that we, and the environment, are not unlimited resources to be mined, and that we must remember to value, conserve and protect both each other and the environment by acting with the knowledge that we are dependent upon each other.
Oftentimes in affluent, first-world societies, it is easy to forget that the Earth has limited resources. Water, for example. We use it without a single thought of it ever running out and becoming unavailable. It is always there for us, and so we forget to appreciate our dependence upon it. Then, we fail to respect it, it loses value, and we waste it.
When I lived in Swami Niranjan's Yoga Ashram in India between the years 2012-2015, I learned a lot about Yoga Ecology that I am just realizing now. There was, in the Ashram, a very particular attitude toward water. It was valued and therefore treated with great respect. It was not wasted. I'll never forget when, during my first days in the Ashram, I was washing my plate after dinner and I turned the tap on and let it run while I soaped my dish when one of the Ashram residents came and turned the tap off, indicating to me not to waste the water. Until that moment, it had honestly never occurred to me in that context before. The same principal thing applied while brushing one's teeth: wet the toothbrush, turn the water off. Brush the teeth. Turn the water on again to rinse the toothbrush. But, do not let the water run while you are brushing your teeth. That is wasteful. And sometimes we did have to briefly go without water when the well ran dry or the power shut off, which helped foster a much greater awareness of our relationship and responsibility to one another to only take what we needed so there was enough left for someone else, as well as helped us to understand our real place and position within Nature. We need her, and yet we often do not even ensure that we protect those aspects of her which we need most for our own survival. The awareness just simply isn't there. Now, 5 years later back at home in Canada, I cannot leave the water running while brushing my teeth, washing a dish or washing my hands. When I see it happen, it makes me cringe. We practice saving water in our own household, among other efforts such as using a bidet to save toilet paper, and assigning our 3 year old the job of turning off all the lights before we leave the house. These are small attitudes and behaviours that we can exemplify to our children that make one thoughtful and can make a difference in how we view and treat each other and the Earth.
If we value, we do not waste. If we value, we protect, we sacrifice and we take great care, just as we do with our own children. The Earth is a kind of a mother, we need her gifts to sustain us. Yet, her health is often in our hands. We must build awareness of this unique relationship, and appreciate the reciprocal nature of it. Only then will we value each other and the environment, and find the balance between "Me" and "We" so that our children too can have a beautiful future for generations to come.
- By Sannyasi Gyanhira Huberman
I think this is a topic that needs no introduction right now. So, let's just get right into it!
Here are some practices that are so powerful yet so simple that you can start right now. It won't take long, and they pack A LOT of punch. They are all practices that I know from doing myself. Try it for 3 days and see the result.
1. Bhramari Pranayama (breathing exercise)
Why: Anxiety reliever.
How: Sit in a comfortable, upright position. Gently press the ears closed with the index fingers, so that your voice echoes inside your head when you speak (do not insert fingers inside the ears). Raise the elbows to the sides, and up to the level of the shoulders. Inhale. As you exhale, make an "mmmmmmmm" sound, keeping the lips closed, until all the breath is exhaled. Repeat 7 times.
It is this gentle humming sound which gives this pranayama its name of "Humming Bee Breath." It is so powerful! The gentle vibration creates a very soothing, calming, relaxing effect.
2. Om Chanting
Why: Om chanting has been shown to reduce emotional tensions, reduce fear, and promote resiliency of health. Om chanting increases intuition. Benefits can be experienced after just 5 minutes of chanting.
How: Sit in a comfortable, upright posture. Chant Om in the most comfortable way for you. Play with it and see what feels best to you, ie what pitch and what speed.
Why: Relieves emotional, mental and physical tensions. It actually really does! Firstly, singing is a powerful, rhythmic and regulated breath exercise, or pranayama, in itself. It helps you oxygenate your brain, which reduces anxiety, especially if you’re a breath-holder when you feel anxious. Singing also relaxes the diaphragm and chest muscles, reducing anxiety by allowing you to take deeper breaths. Finally, singing also helps release emotions (especially when you sing songs you really like), as well as gets you out of your thinking/worrying mind. Music and song are powerful in shifting moods. In Yoga, kirtan and bhajan are sung regularly.
Continue reading article here https://communitymaternity.ca/blogs/the-yoga-of-motherhood/yoga-for-stress-anxiety
He used the analogy of holding a bird in your hands. You need to hold it firm enough that it cannot fly away, yet gentle enough that you do not harm the bird.
I love this analogy, it made the concept so clear in such a simple way. I was so inspired by this teaching that, while pregnant, I painted a yantra (a geometrical light formation that emanates from sound vibration) of the Cosmic Mother for the nursery, and included the image of the cupped bird at its centre. As my husband and I raise our children, this painting continues to remind me that our children are not ours, but that they are entrusted to us for a time. They are born with free will, yet we hold them for a time until they are ready, and it is safe, for them to fly.
The image of the cupped bird also reminds me to be balanced in my parenting because sometimes the power of separation anxiety and the desire to protect is so strong. I want to keep my children safe. Safe from physical danger, but also safe from emotional danger. It is easy for me to go overboard in trying to control my son's movements, activities and social interactions throughout the day in the name of "safety," or "protection," and I find that sometimes what is really at the centre of that might be my own insecurity. I do think that children need the freedom to explore, learn and discover for themselves; at the same time, I do need to be close by to step in when needed. That's the sticky bit for me right there. "When needed."
The cupped bird reminds me that, if I hold my children too close to me due to my own insecurities and fears, I may end up harming them by preventing them from developing the skills they need to thrive in this life, and the resiliency and confidence that one absolutely needs in order to bounce back from inevitable hurts and failures. I have found that it takes so much courage and strength on my part to allow my children the freedom that they need and are entitled to. To give them my love, versus my attachment.
On the flip side, what happens when we don't hold our children tight enough? My family is such a great example of this analogy. If left unchecked, I have the tendency to be controlling. My husband has the opposite tendency towards permissiveness. This is something I think we are seeing more these days in a very well-intentioned attempt at "democracy in the family." It's not bad in my eyes, as long as we strive to keep things in balance. I think we now know that, in order to feel safe and secure, children thrive with a certain amount of routine, boundaries and predictability. Otherwise, they may not feel held, but a bit lost instead as they move throughout their day and social interactions.
Lastly, the image of the cupped bird helps me reflect on my own self-care as a mother. Enter the tendency towards perfectionism as a mother, toward being the "perfect mother." Ahhh. When I had my first child, I allowed so little self-care for myself. We all know the mom-bun. I rocked that bun for weeks (maybe a month!) at a time without taking it down to comb, let alone wash it. When I would finally take my hair down, it ached from the root from being tied up for so long, and had actually dreaded in several places. I had thought that I was being a great mother, giving my all to my child and so little to myself, but in the end not being balanced in my self-care led to inevitable burn out, not allowing me to be my most healthy self for my son. This may seem obvious, but it was really difficult to distinguish when was a good time for me to engage in self-care. It always seemed equally important to be available to him, and then once he was asleep, I didn't have the energy to get up and do self-care.
The promise I made to myself before having our second son was to not hold myself so tight, to relax my ideas and to allow for a little more self-care, because I knew that I couldn't do it the same way twice. Now, I make sure to brush my hair (every few days), and my teeth (almost every day) and shower (well, more than before!).
AND I'm FINALLY writing this blog! It's not perfect... because I don't have time (or enough sleep) for that! Maybe, in some cases, good enough is perfect after all.
Om & Prem.
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