Most yoga journeys begin with the asanas (physical practice) but over time many yogis will begin to unlock the philosophies and ancient teachings to understand the energetic relationship and connectedness of all beings. Yogi’s who follow the path of the Eight Limbs of Yoga and the observance of Ahimsa (non-harming) learn to extend their values not just to themselves and others, but also to mother earth and the environment in which we live. yoga helps many people become aware of their footprint on the earth, however, the rise in the consumerism of yoga has created unforeseen harm to our planet, which goes against our core yogic beliefs.
Imagine your daily yoga practice; you put on your new yoga tights, grab a bottle of water from the studio, roll out your mat and enjoy a class in a heated studio. Most yogis don’t want to harm the earth, however, unbeknownst to many, the rituals of modern-day yoga contribute to a negative ripple effect. When you consider the impacts of a fast fashion society, energy expenditure, single use plastic, and PVC yoga mats, we realise that the $90billion yoga industry is in fact having negative ramifications for the environment.
As yogi’s we want to practice in a conscious and eco-friendly way, that aligns with our principles without harming the planet. Considering this, Russell Comstock in Metta Earth asks us, “Can yoga inspire conscious, peaceful, environmental stewardship for the betterment of society and the Earth?”
We believe that it can. Here are some ways to make your yoga practice more environmentally conscious and reduce your footprint on the earth.
Statistics show that the fashion and textile industry is one of the leading polluters in the world, and the creation of activewear and yoga apparel make up a substantial portion of this. According to the United Nations Climate Change news, the fashion industry contributed to a whopping 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This can also be attributed to its long supply chains and energy intensive production methods. The ways to reduce your impact (unless naked yoga is your thing) is to be mindful of where you are shopping. Some companies such as Nimble Activewear are actually made from recycled plastic bottles and have been mindful to create the shortest supply and logistics chain as possible. Choose quality over quantity, so that you get longer out of your tights and your clothing doesn’t end up in a landfill. Statistic show that Up to 95% of the textiles that are land filled each year could be recycled, so think twice about throwing out your items, perhaps look at repairing or mending items instead or consider if you really need that new pair of leggings, when you already have several pairs at home that will suffice. Many brands are starting to create a recycling system, where you can return your worn clothing, and they’ll offer a discount on new apparel and use the others to be refashioned into new items. Choosing materials such as hemp or bamboo will also reduce the microfibres of polyester, Lycra, nylon, and spandex that end up in our waterways.
Yoga mats are designed to last, to be durable and absorb all the effort you exert each practice. However, when we upgrade or have worn through the mat, it inevitably ends up in landfills and can take hundreds of years to break down. That’s right. Hundreds of years. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a common material used for most yoga mats, which is a problem because manufacturing PVC requires a heavy production process that is highly reliant on the use of fossil fuel. The options for reuse or recycle are limited as well, which means that most PVC products end up contributing to the overwhelming problem of plastic waste in our oceans, or in a landfill. To create a sustainable practice, you can consider more eco-friendly materials such as cork. Cork can be harvested from the cork oak tree without harming or damaging the tree at all. They are a great choice for the environment because as cork bark grows back on the tree it actually absorbs three times more carbon dioxide. Ensure that the cork mat you chose is 100% natural, fully biodegradable, and sustainably sourced. As well as a non-slip texture to practice on, there are also many creative designs, making it our top choice of eco-friendly mats.
Yoga originated in India, where the temperature is often warm or humid – As yoga grew in popularity in the West so did the desire to recreate the hot atmosphere hence the popularity in other climates for heated studios. However, heating studios requires a lot of energy which has an environmental impact from the increased use of fossil fuel, hydroelectric, or nuclear power. If you can opt for a studio that is room temperature (which might mean wearing extra layers in winter or shorts in the summer) otherwise if you really can’t live without your hot yoga sweat sesh, then talk to your studio and find out if they support renewable energy or find a studio that has a carbon offset program in place.
Single use plastic water bottles
8 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year and 40,000 pieces of plastic are estimated to float in every square kilometer of ocean. As yogis, to reduce our footprint on the earth, how we consume plastics associated with our practice becomes important. 75% of rubbish removed from our beaches is made of plastic – imagine doing your sun salutation on the beach at sunrise only to realise that you are surrounded by waste! The most effective way to remove single use plastic from your yoga practice is to invest in a reusable water bottle, instead of buying a new bottle each time. If you usually purchase one plastic bottle per day for your water, then you save more than 300 plastic bottles from ending up in our oceans every year!