We just launched our first online YouTube video! It is the first video in a series focused on creating environmental awareness and celebrating natural environments around the world. We hope that by increasing environmental awareness locally and globally, our yoga practice will empower people to take a step- small, big, or a massive leap- into caring about the environment and improving their community.
Wait a second….. what does yoga have to do with this?
Yoga is marketed as a tool for self-improvement, and the focus is almost always on the individual. This isn’t bad- yoga is definitely a great tool to make you feel mentally and physically better. However, the primary focus on an individual overlooks the potential for yoga to encourage collective action that benefits the community and environment. Don’t get me wrong- yoga is a great tool for self-improvement. We believe that people who feel empowered are more likely to adjust their behavior to help their community and environment. In this way, yoga can help empower people to step up and make changes on both an individual and community level.
Our first stop: St. Lucia!
Our first two videos were filmed in St. Lucia, a beautiful island in the Caribbean. St. Lucia is well known for two striking volcanic spires known as the Pitons (Gros & Petit Pitons- you can guess which is bigger). The Pitons hold the coveted honor of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, indicating importance to the global community. The Pitons, along with the volcanic landscape that they are in, represent the entire volcanic history of volcano associated with crustal plate subduction (the downward, sideways movement of the Earth’s crustal plate into the mantle of another plate). If you have no idea what that just meant, do not worry! Just know that this area offers valuable insight into the geology of how our Earth works- and that it is valuable to all of us.
St. Lucia also has valuable ecosystems, one of the most celebrated being the fragile coral reefs around the island. Due to climate change caused by human activity, our oceans are rising. This directly affects St. Lucia and other island nations all over the world. As our oceans rise and warm, island land and the resources on within them grow smaller. This has dire consequences for human, animal and plant populations. Coral reefs are at risk due to human activity (such as over-fishing and high populations of tourist visiting) as well as coral bleaching due to an increase in the ocean temperature. Many island nations feel the effects of global warming right now. We all contribute to the effect climate change has now and in the future.
This is where a lot of people stop and feel terrible, even hopeless. How can we help? Do our small actions even matter?
How can we help address climate change?
It is easy to feel overwhelmed about climate change. A huge step is not denying that it is real and that we are causing it. Educate yourself and talk about it with others. You have power, and small steps make a difference. If you need to feel empowered, yoga can help you get there. A regular practice makes a person physically and mentally stronger. A yoga practice is uniquely personal, and because of this, each person will contribute to his or her community in their own way. And that is awesome!
Ten Ways You Can Help RIGHT NOW (this list courtesy of the Canadian government. Read more here)
- Reduce energy use
- Change your transportation
- Insulate your home
- Watch your water usage
- Use cold water in the washing machine and hang your clothes vs. using a dryer
- Replace old appliances with high efficiency (energy reducing) items
- Switch to “green power”
- Plant trees
Try choosing one of the items above, and make it a goal to achieve it by a certain point. Plant a tree, hang your clothes, and get crafty on Pinterest vs. buying new products.
So does yoga directly affect climate change? No. But yoga does empower people to take action and make a difference in their community and environment. Our behavior has an effect on the world, and that is a powerful thing.
Share your ideas to empower others! Stay tuned for the next video in St. Lucia!
What was your first experience with yoga?
I remember hearing that yoga was great for your body, but I also noticed a community around it. And I did not see myself as fitting in with this community at first. My perception of the community was based on the svelte body yoga stereotype and the calm, sometimes peacefulness that seemed a bit smug to me. The yoga community seemed inaccessible and in some ways and not a group I wanted to identify with.
Despite my reservations, I started practicing. My perception of the yoga community began to fade away. I realized that yoga is not just a product of the community- it is also the product of each individual, blending ancient wisdom with modern life. In this way, a physical yoga practice is unique, focusing on individual action and feeding into a larger community purpose. I believe that yoga has the power to deepen self-knowledge and empower you to be a part of a community. Not a community that you conform to, but one that you actively help foster, create and support. Yoga empowers you to start something good not just in yourself, but in the social and physical environment around you. But in order to feel empowered in a way to make the outside better, you have to work on the inside. A great way to start is to explore and discover your ranges and your limits.
I believe that yoga has the power to deepen self-knowledge and empower you to be a part of a community. Not a community that you conform to, but one that you actively help foster, create and support.
When is comes to the effect a yoga practice can have on a person, three primary words come to mind: explore, discover, empower. A physical yoga practice helps you to explore a variety of ranges in your life. Physically, this range may be your range of motion (how far can you bend in forward fold?) or your natural level of flexibility (can you bust straight into the splits?). Exploring your physical range can help you take care of your body, monitor what you need in daily practice, and give you a gauge to measure physical changes over time. Yoga also helps you explore and discover your mental range. For example, does moving slow really bother you? Why? Do you find your mind wandering during times of stillness, such as meditation or savasana pose? Yoga is great for your physical body, and just as beneficial to your mind. A yoga practice helps to explore your range of thoughts, emotions, stress and comfort levels. This exploration of your mental range helps you discover more about yourself and what you can do to improve and sustain mental health beyond a physical practice. Of course, with any range, we eventually hit a limit. And as we discover our limits, we need to both explore and honor them.
Yoga is great for your physical body, and just as beneficial to your mind.
When you hear the word “limit” you may have a concept of it as being somewhat negative- a blockage or an obstacle that is preventing you from something. Indeed, we need to both honor and push our limits. But a limit is not necessarily a negative thing. For example, a person with an injured knee may have physical limits that restrict their ability to bend into a squat. The injured knee is not am obstacle to overcome-it is simply a limit that helps you personalize your yoga practice to be unique and beneficial. Recognizing and working with your limits is the key to honoring yourself and cultivating a beneficial yoga practice. You may also notice that you have mental limits- an edge of sorts that you get to and aren’t sure how to operate in. The first step is to acknowledge that the limit is there, and to be aware of it. I have a mental limit whenever I get into bridge pose- for some reason, I always feel very aggravated. The feeling of aggravation makes me what to drop out of the pose, but I realize that this limit is mental, and I need to stay in the bridge pose longer. This is an example of pushing your mental limits, but simultaneously honoring that they are there.
Recognizing and working with your limits is the key to honoring yourself and cultivating a beneficial yoga practice.
Pushing and horning your limits, both physical and mental, is entirely up to you. The key is to explore slowly, in order to discover more about these limits, and to ultimately empower yourself to honor or push them.
Yoga is Yours to Share
The yoga community is not just about hard butts and stylish clothing. It is about realizing your ranges, your limits, and the innate power you have to do something good- together. People practice yoga for a variety of reasons, and the end result is likely improvement and empowerment. An empowered person is more likely to improve their community and environment. In this way, yoga continues to promote change on both individual and community levels.
What will you do with your power and practice?
Have you thought about your yoga story? How does this story play into the larger narrative you tell yourself everyday?
What the hell am I talking about? Let’s explore. Before you read the rest of the blog, try this very short activity.
Imagine you walk into a room full of complete strangers.What are 3 adjectives that these strangers would use to describe you?
Take a moment and write down these 3 adjectives.
All done? Great! What are the 3 adjectives that you wrote down? Would you categorize them as positive or negative? A mixture?
This simple exercise is a great way to assess the larger storyline you have created about yourself. If these adjectives are critical, this is likely affecting you in a negative way. If they are positive, the effect is likely positive. And we want the positive!
In the last blog, we discussed the power and importance of a story. Do you remember a story from your childhood that was used to warn you about a danger? Think of a common story everyone seems to know: don’t take candy from a stranger! Perhaps yours is more specific, but you get the general idea. Stories can help us interact in situations, even if the situation is completely new to us. Bottom line: stories are a good way of influencing how we see and interact with our world. We hear them and we tell them to ourselves and others every day.
Bottom line: stories are a good way of influencing how we see and interact with our world.
The story we have about ourselves can make us who we are. Think about it. If you tell yourself you suck, you may not suck right away, but you likely will in the future. In psychology, this is called a self-fulfilling prophecy: you hear a story about yourself, then believe a story about yourself, and inevitably become the story (hence fulfilling the prophecy). The good news? You do not have to be defined by a single story and succumb to a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can empower yourself to write a new one. And you can start by making sure your 3 adjectives are positive, not negative. And remember, these aren’t meant to be ego-inflating compliments, but rather words that empower you to thrive.
And remember, these aren’t meant to be ego-inflating compliments, but rather words that empower you to thrive.
That is why so many wellness groups promote positive thinking. It isn’t just to make you smile once, but to perhaps change your mindset and story for the day. Positive thinking changes the way you see and deal with situations in your life. It can make you feel better, see things better, and ultimately make your community better. Positive thinking is empowering.
Positive thinking is empowering.
The story you tell yourself every day has a huge effect on your mindset, behavior and energy toward others and your community. If you do not think you are great, then you aren’t going to be. This negative thought pattern is not just bad for you, but it is bad for the community and larger society. After all, we all need people to take action and make our world, on both small and large levels, better.
So how do you either keep up a positive mindset or shift in the right direction?
Every day, say to yourself: I AM (followed by some positive words).
For example: I am worthy, I am strong. I am resilient. Boom! All done. Write it down and remind yourself of these words every day, even multiple times. Adjust the compliments depending on what you need in your life.
Every day, say to yourself: I AM (followed by some positive words).
Give it a try and bring it to your yoga practice. Meditate on it. Breathe it. Use it as your mantra. Remind yourself of it often. Remember to keep exploring and discovering things about yourself and your life. Write your own story, and start sharing that story with others!
In order to own your yoga, you need to have a good understanding of where you are in your yoga story. We will be exploring the concept of a story and how it can empower our practice in the next few blog posts. Read on and start exploring, discovering and empowering yourself!
How do stories affect us?
Stories are powerful. They help us relate to one another, creating empathy and allowing us to share experience beyond ourselves. Telling a story is not only entertaining- it can also help people spread valuable information to one another. In fact, stories may have played a valuable role in human evolution, allowing cultures to pass down information to sustain survival in challenging environments.
Stories are powerful. They help us relate to one another, creating empathy and allowing us to share experience beyond ourselves.
Have you ever thought about your own story? What about your yoga story?
Consider the following questions:
- What is your yoga story? How did it begin and where are you now?
- What story peaked your interest in yoga? If you can’t think of a direct story here, maybe think of the message you first recall about yoga.
- How does your story affect how you see yourself?
- How does your story affect others, including your environment?
If these questions speak to you, write them down with their answers or talk about them with a friend. Doing so will help clarify your story to yourself and others. It will help you find a confident voice to take action in the future- the first step to making a positive difference for yourself and others.
If you are curious, check out my story below. Or scroll down to the bottom of the post to skip!
My Yoga Story
Since I was about 13, I was into distance running and soccer. I became more focused on running as grew into my teenage years- this was primarily due to actually liking it, but also because, like many girls of similar age, I had an strong interest to look a certain way. I wanted to obtain society’s standards of beauty, so I focused on taking actions that promoted it: vigorous, calorie burning exercise and a concern with my food intake. Like many girls and women, I wanted to achieve the unachievable ideal of perfection, an unattainable goal that creates unnecessary stress. I had heard of yoga, but always rejected doing it because it didn’t seem valuable to my end goal: it is too slow moving, I’ll be bored, it doesn’t give you a good workout out, I want more of a high impact. I finally decided to try yoga out, but only by dipping my toe into a Power Yoga DVD with Rodney Yee. So I tried it. And I liked it! Or perhaps I liked the idea that people who practiced yoga seemed to be “deeper”- more connected, aware, maybe even a bit smug. Either way I practiced with it a few times a week. This DVD led me to volunteer at the front desk of a local studio, receiving unlimited free classes as payment. This experience opened my eyes to multiple yoga styles, as well as incredible mental and physical benefits.
I liked yoga, but I didn’t practice it regularly. I moved on to attend graduate school, where I only practiced yoga when I could (looking back, this is when I should have been practicing it the most). And that was my relationship with yoga for awhile- do it when you can, but that’s all. Yoga really is the most beneficial when you are able to practice it regularly, and I did not experience these benefits until my teacher training in 2015. My training and teaching has allowed me to expand my practice and really take yoga everywhere with me, which was great while I was traveling. With regular practice, I really noticed the benefits of yoga- I was calmer, more mindful, physically stronger and a lot better at handling my emotions. I also started meditating, something I had always been curious about but had never done regularly.
My yoga practice makes my life better. It makes me treat others well, my environment mindfully, and myself with the respect I deserve. And the funny thing is, I know this is just the beginning. With yoga as a tool, I am looking forward to changes and growth in the future.
Are stories always good?
Not necessarily! Stories often bias how we perceive our world. This bias, when it goes unchecked, can turn into something dangerous.Particularly dangerous is the concept of a single story, a story that everyone seems to know, despite the fact that it offers a very limited (and unrealistic) perspective. An example of this may be a negative stereotype about a person or group of peopleThey can also be dangerous to your own wellbeing- if you maintain a story that says you are a loser everyday, you won’t feel empowered to act differently. It is vital to remember that stories do not necessarily equate to reality, and we must work to maintain the concept of a larger, interconnected picture when telling them.
Stories help us connect to one another. It is up to us to make sure this connection can be varied out to the broader community and environment.
To explore what stories are and how they affect you and your world, check out these great TED talks:
Hello and welcome to AnthroYoga! I am glad you are here. This blog will focus on all things yoga. If there is something you would like to see, let me know. If you are interested in being a contributor, let me know! I’m interested in hearing multiple voices and perspectives.
Yoga is both ancient and modern. It is a mixture of tradition and innovation, and continues to provide a platform for growth for many practitioners. It is easy to write yoga off as “just exercise”, but as many practitioners can attest, yoga has the ability to affect and transform many areas of your life. The thing about yoga is that is takes patience and practice. Regular practice leads to small, subtle changes, which in turn can become monumental changes. And yoga affects more than just the practitioner- social relationship may be improved and ultimately our ability to protect, understand and respect the environment that we live and thrive in.
Everyone has to start somewhere. Start here!