How often do you think about what you are putting in your body? Three times a day? How about what you’re putting down the sink, in the trash, or the air we breathe?
Thinking beyond ourselves is rooted in the practice of ahimsa. Ahimsa is the first Yama in Patanjali’s 8 limbed path of yoga; a principle of non-violence, and when practiced, it means taking responsibility for the harm your thoughts and actions could cause to yourself and to others.
Ahimsa is a big picture idea. Our disposable, consumer-based behaviours are out of alignment with this principle. Most western lifestyles are wreaking harm across the planet at an alarming rate.
We’ve all undoubtedly heard the horrors of the fast fashion industry since the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse which killed 1134 workers – devastatingly enough this has not slowed down the demand for production. Yet unfair treatment and poor conditions for workers is only a part of the problem. The fast fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world behind big oil.
And then there’s, plastic. Every single piece of plastic you’ve ever used is still out in the world releasing harmful toxins into the environment. Plastic never breaks down chemically, and there is no bubble in which we are safe from these toxins. Eventually, these harmful toxins – BPA, BPDE, POPs and phthalates – end up in our bodies through our food, water, household plastic items and more. Women’s health is particularly affected as many of these are endocrine disruptors, which mess with how our hormones communicate and can cause breast cancer, autoimmune disease, reproduction issues, infertility, birth defects and more. We can also pass these toxins on to our children in utero and while nursing. This means children can experience the harm of our convenience-driven plastic addiction before they’ve even experienced plastic products themselves.
How we treat our environment is a real reflection of how we treat ourselves. It’s an uncomfortable mirror to gaze in but one we must face. When we first start to pull back and take stock of all the harm we might be causing in the form of slavery, health issues, and environmental degradation it can feel overwhelming.
Deep breath time.
If you begin to approach sustainable living as you would your yoga practice, it feels attainable. You don’t rock up to your first yoga class expecting to be able to pop-up into a handstand, just as you shouldn’t expect to suddenly be living off-grid with a flourishing green roof.
Ahimsa is a practice. Living sustainably is a practice. Sometimes we fall out, but what’s important is that we lovingly pull ourselves back into alignment.
To help you start making a few small steps, here are some sustainably minded choices to incorporate with ease.
Switch to a reusable glass or stainless steel water bottle if you haven’t already. Soma is one company that offers beautiful designs while also being a certified B Company and holding itself to four pillars for social responsibility practices.
Your Meditation Crystals
Look for second hand or ethically hand-mined crystals. Certain mining practices can be very hard on the earth, and you want to make sure you’re not funding any companies with unethical employee practices on your pursuit of inner peace. Moonrise Crystals and Kacha Stones are two suppliers working to source only ethical stones.
Look for blocks, bolsters and straps made out of biodegradable materials such as organic cotton or cork. Halfmoon uses sustainably harvested cork and organic cotton for straps.
Your Coconut Oil
The sourcing of this well-touted cure-all can be linked to unfairly paid farmers, monkey slavery and child labour. Look for fair trade certified producers such as Nutiva.
Love a post-yoga green juice? Pack a reusable metal straw in your yoga bag. You can pick them up in most health food or kitchen stores or online from retailers like Eco at Heart. And hello, there are endless options of reusable sipping vessels to hold that green juice.
Shop from companies that are closing the loop and using materials like recycled plastics and organic cotton. Do your research before buying and make sure the company’s ethical and environmental practices are above board. Inner Fire values the environment, ethical practices and makes their clothes in Canada.
The extra mile: wash any of your synthetic yoga clothes in a guppy bag or put a microfibre trap in your washing machine. During every wash, your yoga pants can shed 200,000 – 1,000,000 microfibres (the most significant source of microplastics off BC’s coast) which enter the food chain and have all kinds of harmful effects on marine life and us.
We realize that making some of these choices can involve a higher financial cost. As eco-friendly options become more mainstream, the cost of production will go down over time. Make the changes you can in your life now and let go of what you can’t. Don’t forget to reassess what you really need as living sustainably is mainly about consuming less.
It’s a balancing act that like anything, will get easier with practice.
Nikkey Dawn is a designer and content creator for outdoor and wellness inspired brands. Her YTT course ignited her curiosity about the body’s communication systems and the connection between our health and the environment. Now, she loves to write and share her learnings on enlightening platforms like tuja.