I am living evidence of my connection to Nature. When I walk out into the cold and look down to my bare arms I see the hairs on my skin standing up. In the heat of summer my skin begins to sweat. There is a direct connection between my physical body and the external world. Spending time connecting with Nature I realise how many patterns we share. The pores of my skin interlock like the scales of a pinecone; the bronchiole of my lungs branch out like tree branches; when I stretch my toes forward and press my heels down my trunk rises up, just as the trunk of a tree rises up from its roots.
As a specie we are rapidly losing out connection with Nature and our sensitivity to its inherent intelligence. I may feel this as I begin exploring the work of my feet in my practice of the Standing Poses: toes may be numb or frozen from years of blocking their connection to the Earth by encasing them in shoes. When I am out of touch I lose sensitivity and understanding.
Permaculture observes principles found in nature to guide us to rebuild this understanding. I can use these principles to reflect on my practice of Yoga and recognise its potential to connect me to the Natural world…
Use and Value Diversity
In the wilds of Nature diverse cohabitation of plants makes for resilience from pests and richness in ecosystems for other beneficial species. Our social structures reflect this interconnection between friend groups and community systems of support and understanding. In my practice of Yoga, I can turn my focus inwards and observe the richness and ever-changing nature of my emotions and sensations. When I try to attach myself to or reject these emotions and sensations I create tension. If I learn to accept them and integrate them I find peace internally, in relation to myself, and externally, in my relation to the outside world.
Applying Self-Regulation and Accepting Feedback
Responding to feedback and self-regulating are mechanisms which are embedded within Nature. We see examples of this in the pulsing of predator and prey populations which fluctuate so that neither expands too much. Practice of the Asanas gives us means by which to regulate the mind through physical and energetic feedback. As I assume any posture I see whenever my mind fluctuates the physical body responds: my eyes move, my face contort, my muscles contract. On an energetic level as the physical body is tensed up by the agitations of the mind the breath becomes short, shallow or very quick. By consciously relaxing the physical body I can regulate the mind and its patterns of analysing, judging and discriminating so that it becomes quiet. The breath acts as a guide to where I am holding physical tension and as a point of focus for the mind to rest upon.
Small and Slow Solutions
We are very used to quick fixes to problems within our Western culture. We maximise our production of food with the use of chemical fertilisers, we fuel our vehicles and machines with fossil fuels and we invest in pharmaceutical companies to provide us with drugs to speed up our recovery from illness. All these solutions to the problems we face are unsustainable – they rely on finite resources, they pollute our finite planet and they deplete our finite bodies. Nature has ways of countering this downward spiral by keeping its resources locked into a cycle of energy. An example is how a tree uses its leaves to harness energy from the sun then drops them for insects to digest and break down into accessible nutrients for the soil which in turn are absorbed by the tree. Nothing is wasted. At the same time as the tree drops its leaves it also draws its energy inwards for the winter, saving its reserves whilst sunlight is scarce so that in the coming summer it can function with maximum efficiency.
How can we apply this energy cycling in our own lives? In our practice we can recognise energy drains. These might come in the form of relationships which constantly deplete us, certain foods which we find hard to digest and which leave us lethargic or thought patterns which lead us to places of despondence and defeat. Filtering out these negative influences we make space for nourishing, beneficial ones. We can also be like a tree adapting to changes in the seasons, by balancing our outward-going and inward-going energy. There is a time for action, but to be effective in our actions we must have moments of pause, reflection and relaxation in our lives. This might come in the form of diary writing, walking in Nature, or cooking our favourite food with good ingredients. In the practice of Yoga, it manifests in the moments we take to scan the body and breath for tension or holding so that we reflect on the effects of our actions. The best solutions are found with time and patience.
By accepting our existence as part of Nature and observing the mechanisms which Nature uses to sustain itself we have the potential to have a positive impact on our own health and the wellbeing of other life forms which I share my planet with.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Nicolas James Waters
24 June 2018