When we think of permaculture, we don’t often associate it with yoga, as the two are from different schools of discipline. We know that Bill Mollison coined the term permaculture to describe the conscious design and maintenance of sustainable, agriculturally productive ecosystems. A portmanteau of the phrases “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture,” it focuses on the harmonious integration and union of people with nature.
In order to find how permaculture correlates with yoga, we first need to understand what yoga is.
What is Yoga?
There’s a lot more to yoga than what is advertised in the mainstream as a strenuous workout. What we now recognise as the modern practice of yoga has its roots in the Yoga Sutra, a 2,000-year-old text based on the philosophies of the wise sage Patanjali. The Yoga Sutra is one of the earliest written records and serves as the framework for the practice up until the present day. The popularity of yoga in the West began some time at the end of the 19th century, soon followed by an explosion of interest in the 1920s and 1930s that has continued to varying intensities into the present day.
While it’s undeniable that many see yoga as a form of exercise, the original yoga traditions in India focused on expanding spiritual energy. This is done through a combination of meditation, breathing techniques, and of course, the postures. The practice encourages inward focus on yourself, highlighting the link between yoga and a deeper appreciation for the self and spirituality.
What is commonly misunderstood about yoga is that you can pick apart its different elements — i.e., the physical, mental, and spiritual aspects — and only choose one to observe. However, the ultimate goal of yoga is to bring those three into union through a well-balanced practice.
How Does This Relate to Permaculture?
When you sit in a yoga class, a word that instructors repeatedly use is ‘observe’. Observe how your core tightens. Observe the flow of your breath. Observe the thoughts running through your mind. Just like in permaculture, yoga requires the observation of the different patterns that make up an ecosystem — only in yoga, the ecosystem is contained within the human body, while permaculture pertains to natural ecosystems.
Regardless, both disciplines entail holistic methods and emphasise that no solitary being or element functions alone. For example, the sweat-inducing portion of a yoga practice does more than increase flexibility and strength. Healthcare contributor Alice G. Walton highlighted findings that yoga has been found to reduce the risk of depressive episodes by 17% among 8,000 participants. Though yoga is relatively more low-intensity than gym-based workouts, its physical practice, coupled with the breathing techniques and mediation, regulate the stress response and promote calmness in those who practice.
An individual with a sound mind is more able to give back to the community. Once they develop a higher consciousness through yoga, they become more open to the idea that we are all interconnected. In an interview by Huffington Post with environmentalist Céline Cousteau, she captures how yoga has this effect to act with more leadership: “If you regenerate, you’re going to come back, better, for the people you serve.” Our individual actions, or lack thereof, all have some degree of effect on the environment and the beings depending on it.
Yoga bridges the gap between the self and the environment in more ways than one. It teaches its students to reject attachment to material things, which falls in line with the concept of sustainability. The fewer products you buy, the less impact it has on our natural resources. Yogis are also called on to live in non-violence, not just toward the self, but especially when acting around others. This is why dedicated practitioners promote lifestyles that minimise harmful practices on the environment, such as adopting a vegetarian diet or supporting ethically made products.
Permaculture and yoga are complementary practices that highlight harmony both within and outside of the body. Yoga just takes a more individual approach before extending mindfulness into sustainable and environmentally conscious practices that apply to permaculture. The link between the two disciplines is subtle, but undeniable, and one can even see a permaculture lifestyle as the next logical step after the practice of yoga.
Exclusively written by J Moore for permaculturenews.org