Audrey Cozzarin is a Norwalk resident, and member of the Oak Hills Park Nature Advisory Committee. She teaches the “SacredYoga” class at Christ Church in East Norwalk on Saturday mornings, from 9 to 10:15 a.m., by donation, for all levels. All are welcome.
Yoga is a practice that is gaining more popularity every day in this country. Most people get a sense that yoga is relaxing, that it helps with flexibility and balance, and brings calm to body, mind, and spirit. And, of course, there are those “pretzel” postures. But, yoga is so much more. I want to share with you what I feel is a direct connection between yoga and nature, a way to help us get out of the bind we humans are in with climate change.
First, yoga is an ancient practice that reminds us that we are part of the “All,” that we are all connected—as people, as earth creatures. In fact, many of the yoga asanas, or postures, are named after animals and earth elements.
Second, scientists today believe that all people have a “spiritual gene.” Yoga has at its core a non-religious spirituality that so many people today are responding to. In many cases, yoga students return to formal church services, having been reacquainted with their spiritual selves.
It is this spiritual core of yoga that awakens the compassion we have inside each of us towards other people, animals, and the planet itself. This is not spirituality that is mystical or religious. It is innate, universal, in all people.
Third, you have heard of the term “mindfulness.” Yoga and its mind-body connection is one of the best methods of stress reduction. Modern life can be very challenging and I find the energy of Fairfield County especially stressful. The practice of yoga helps millions of people around the world release tension, better able to live mindfully. For me, I am more able to slow down, enjoy life, see what it important, be able to give. Yoga helps people access their willpower as well as find inner peace.
Yoga transforms, and makes possible the “ecological transformation” for which Pope Francis prays. Yoga can be a daily practice that opens our eyes to the beauty of nature, rooting us in reality, with compassion for all creatures and creation itself. The Pope has written, “The misuse of creation begins when we no longer recognize any higher instance than ourselves, when we see nothing else but ourselves.”
All creatures wish to avoid pain, suffering, toxins, negativity, and we humans have the capacity to look beyond ourselves. A practice that focuses on joy, on compassion, on love and respect for all beings is one that can help us as a society transform towards justice, not only for human beings such as the poor, but for our one and only home, the Earth.
Our society, with its relentless push towards consumerism and materialism, can distract us from the natural world of which we are citizens as well. Balance is key, and again, that is the aim of yoga—equanimity—balance of body, mind, and spirit.
My first two opinion pieces, on Earth Day and recently in defense of the “lowly” dandelion, along with this article, focus on kindness toward the natural world in order to balance and restore what has been damaged by human activity—and how we might learn new habits once we discover our old ways are harmful to the earth. I try to walk the walk and hope to inspire my fellow earthlings to tune in to reality, become awake and aware to see that our behavior towards each other and the earth are intertwined tightly.
We really do have the power to transform, and to my mind, the best practice to foster this transformation—on both the personal and community levels—is yoga.
I invite you to try yoga if you haven’t yet. I teach a yoga class with a mix of spiritual traditions as a way to relax the body, calm the mind, and bring nourishment to the spirit and re-discover our connection to nature. Let us recognize that some things are still sacred, and paramount at this time is the earth itself. Namaste!