Yoga fosters a deeper connection between the body and the mind. Can it help foster a deeper connection to nature as well?
The Yoga For Nature community and its founder, Phil Dickenson, thinks so.
I recently spoke with Phil to learn more about him and Yoga For Nature. Read on to hear Phil’s story and understand the purpose of his non-profit, Yoga For Nature, to exemplify how yoga can promote action for positive change for the community and environment.
Inspiring Action: The Roots of Yoga for Nature
It all started in savasana.
Phil Dickenson was attending a yoga class to focus on quieting his mind. During the final resting pose of savasana, a thought popped into his head. Unlike the standard fleeting ideas that often crop up in this restorative pose, this idea would not go away. It stayed lit like a light bulb and stayed in Phil’s mind for the rest of the evening. So he slept on it.
The next day, this thought became an idea, and “Yoga For Nature” was officially born.
Yoga For Nature is a straightforward concept: the yoga community (including practitioners and studio owners) supports exceptional conservation projects all over the world by attending regular Yoga For Nature classes. The classes then generate funds that go directly to conservation organizations, most often in the form of providing digital media support (such as filmography and photography) to help share an organization’s story and educate people of the cause.
Stories are powerful. In the current digital media age, it is vital for conservation organizations to have a platform to tell their story and to have the story reach a large audience, ultimately connecting people to the organizations and their specific causes. Yoga For Nature provides a platform for these stories with the support of the yoga community
The initial stubborn thought of Yoga For Nature has roots in much of Phil’s life. Since the age of 14, Phil found himself empathetic to animals and became a vegetarian. This interest further blossomed in a curiosity about animals as well as their ecosystems, and was further refined by an interest in marine life and a love for surfing. After studying art theory and painting, he became involved in the digital media side of art: filming, directing and producing television shows. He led a successful life in a popular field, but felt something wasn’t right. He quit his job, grabbed a surfboard and traveled the world for two years to take a break.
This is who I am. My values are represented by yoga.
After his travels, Phil returned to the television industry, and developed a yoga practice to cope with the demands of the industry. As with many people who come to yoga, he was first interested in a physical practice and quickly opened to the idea of yoga philosophy. “This is who I am. My values are represented by yoga,” said Phil, noting the personal connection to his yoga practice. He earned his yoga teaching certification and aims to live a yogic lifestyle beyond the mat.
Nature and the Yoga Community
The concept of “nature” is debated and rooted in cultural and historical contexts. So what does “nature” mean to Phil? “I just read a fascinating book called ‘The Abstract Wild’ which speaks about our ideological concept of nature, and our tendency to curate and define wild spaces in line with our own needs or desires,” he said. “So right now, the nature I’d like to describe is untouched or better still unaffected by us, so flora and fauna are able to support us without suffering and degrading. That’s what Mother Nature wants, to love and support us so we can be together rather than forced apart.”
Yoga For Nature uses a model that focuses on developing relationships to form an interconnected support system, not unlike the support system that, as Phil notes, exists in healthy ecosystems.
That’s what Mother Nature wants, to love and support us so we can be together rather than forced apart
So why focus on the yoga community as the root of this support system?
Phil recognizes that conservation is a complex field with complex issues, but noted that the global yoga community is rooted in compassion that, when unified, can make good things happen.
“Storytellers always think about the audience and how a narrative will sit with certain people, that’s nothing new. But when your audience is less defined (i.e. you’re not able to screen to a specific group with shared values and interests) then the response will naturally vary. The fact that Yoga For Nature is pitching certain stories to a certain group of people is one of it’s strongest strategies because the way things are, we don’t want people to be apathetic or mildly interested, we want people to rise up and take action. I believe Yogis aren’t politically swayed or influenced by economics, they’ll assess a story with their heart and their measure of compassion for the story being told will elicit the desired response.”
Basically, yogic principles promote a healthy relationship with the environment, and yogis are already connected to a global community that can make a difference. And that is some good Karma!