Yoga For Nature: A Global Yoga Community Inspiring Deeper Connection with Nature

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

Phil’s Story

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!

International Yoga Day is coming up on June 21st! Why not celebrate the day with Yoga For Nature?
Learn more about Yoga For Nature and connect with its founder, Phil, here.
Interested in joining the community and supporting Yoga for Nature? Get involved here.
Follow Yoga For Nature on Facebook and Instagram! Don’t forget to show you love via hashtag @ #yogafornature!
Want to see more? Check out what yogis have helped support by watching the video below!

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Can Yoga be Beneficial for the Environment?

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!

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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.

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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)

  1. Reduce energy use
  2. Change your transportation
  3. Insulate your home
  4. Watch your water usage
  5. Use cold water in the washing machine and hang your clothes vs. using a dryer
  6. Replace old appliances with high efficiency (energy reducing) items
  7. Switch to “green power”
  8. Recycle!
  9. Repurpose!
  10. 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!