Yoga emphasizes caring for yourself, others, and your environment. Yoga, derived from the Sanskrit term for “yoke” or “union,” embodies the principle of interconnectedness. It recognizes the inextricable connection between all living creatures – humans, animals, plants, and planets. The underlying philosophy of yoga is that by taking care of other people, you are also taking care of yourself. The opposite is also true.
Ahimsa is the first of the Yamas (yogic principles) laid out in the Yoga Sutras. It encourages nonviolence in words, thoughts, and actions. Ahimsa is evaluating the impact of your efforts and choosing the path that causes the least harm to all living things – directly or indirectly. While humans have a long history of harming themselves and others, there is no doubt that we all desire peace, kindness, and joy. Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our impact on the world and take meaningful actions toward creating a happier, healthier planet.
Earth Day was founded in 1970 to voice a growing environmental consciousness and bring ecological issues to the forefront of media and science. In 1990, Earth Day became a global campaign, mobilizing 200 million people across 141 countries to bring environmental issues into the spotlight (source). On April 22, more than one billion people joined together to promote ahimsa, the principle of nonviolence, in the way we treat the planet and the creatures that inhabit it.
It can be challenging to know where to begin and how to have an impact with such a massive initiative. There are so many causes, organizations, viewpoints, and approaches. We can’t alter the planet’s course by ourselves, but we can all take small actions and steps to celebrate Earth Day.
The Bhagavad-gita describes the four paths of yoga that lead to liberation. As we reflect on our oneness with our planet, these four paths can inspire how we approach Earth Day. Below, look at the four paths to see how they relate to celebrating Earth Day or any other time.
KARMA KARMA: YOGA FOR ACTION AND SOLIDARITY
You are entitled to what you do but not the fruits of that action. According to Krishna’s description in the Bhagavad-gita, Karma yoga is about selfless service without expecting anything back. A loving act, no matter how small or large, without expecting a reward is a way to purify your heart. In light of this, taking action is the best way to honor our planet on Earth Day. No matter how big or small the act is, it must be something that resonates within you and comes from a place where you are filled with love. It may take a long time to see the impact of our actions, but they are being done on behalf of others. This could be the planet, animals, plants, or future generations. We can act on behalf of others, even if they cannot do so right now. Here are some ways you can observe Earth Day by practicing Karma Yoga.
Organize a beach/park/street cleanup with your family and friends, or spend time cleaning your community on a walk.
Volunteer at a Recycling Center
Start recycling or composting in your home.
Use fewer single-use plastic bottles, utensils, and containers
Consider seasonal and locally sourced foods from organic farms.
Replace your plastic bags with reusable canvas bags. Listen to it if you need extra motivation before heading to the supermarket.
Calculate your carbon footprint . Explore ways to reduce it.
Supporting a charity that is focused on environmental issues, such as those listed below, can be another way to take action.
Woman for India is a youth-led organization dedicated to making India a clean, green nation.
Dunagiri Foundation : A sustainable platform to preserve rare and endangered Himalayan Medicinal Plants through an integrated model for education, cultivation and distribution.
Clean Water Action : organizes a strong grassroots group to protect the environment and health.
Bee Girl Organization : A grassroots nonprofit focused on bee habitat protection through research, regeneration, and education.
Reef Restoration Project: is a small but powerful reef restoration project which supports coral restoration efforts on Cozumel Island and the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. Please donate to this dynamic pair by buying some H4R swag or donating through their website.
Farm Sanctuary is a pioneering farm animal sanctuary in the U.S. Farm Sanctuary has provided refuge to countless survivors from the animal agriculture system. Please donate to the Farm Sanctuary today and help them maintain the farm. You can also adopt a farm animal to support their medical bills.
One is an action platform that aims to restore ocean health in the next generation and address climate change.
Friends of the Earth is the largest grassroots environmental organization in the world. Its goal is to build a sustainable and peaceful world by fostering societies that live in harmony with the environment.
Rodale Institute is a non-profit organization dedicated to growing regenerative organic farming through research, training of farmers, and education.
You can also volunteer for a cause you are passionate about through IVHQ, the largest volunteer travel organization in the world.
BHAKTI YOGA : YOGA OF COMPASSION AND LOVE
In the Bhagavad-Gita, the second path is Bhakti yoga. This is the yoga of love and surrender. Bhakti yoga is traditionally practiced through prayer, chanting, and contemplation, as well as expressing devotion towards the divine. As the yogis revere the divine power of the creation, so can we worship the Earth that provides us with food, clothing, shelter, sustenance, and beauty. A simple and effective way to practice gratitude for the Earth is through a journaling/contemplation exercise below:
Please answer the following questions and reflect on them.
List the daily gifts that you receive from the earth.
Think about the best moments in nature that you have experienced.
List all your favorite animals and why you love them.
List all the ways that you are currently helping to maintain a healthy environment
Write down 3 habits that you can start doing right now to help our planet.