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Yama in our relation to the environment

What if we would apply the Yama principles to our environment? Would it be a way to increase the care for our planet?

The last article on our blog talked about yoga's first and second limbs: Yama and Niyama. These principles aim to harmonize a person with herself and others. Many of the elements of Yama and Niyama are meant to be applied to all living and non-living entities.

But what if we collectively applied those principles to our environment? It would indeed be an interesting way to increase our awareness of our surroundings and learn how to care about it honestly. Let's see together how that could be possible.

Integration of Yama in the environment

The first principle of Yama is called Ahimsa, or non-violence. Applied to the environment, it would mean that one should not harm it by his actions, thoughts, and words. It would imply that we collectively stop posing actions or thinking about projects which can damage the planet. The examples of this are numerous, going from simple waste management to reconsidering our dependence on petrol. We collectively know that our living habits and the companies we usually support have harmful impacts on the planet, and we keep acting the same way. If we would collectively follow Ahimsa, we could stop these destructive practices and positively impact the nature around us as well as societies.

The second principle of Satya is about truthfulness and recognizing and respecting the limitations of ourselves and others. Applied to the environment, this would make us realize that it is impossible to live in an infinite production and consumption way on a planet with limited resources. It would encourage us to develop new ways of living which would consider the boundaries of the world we live in.

The third Yama principle, Asteya, is about non-stealing. Directed to the environment, it would teach us to take only what is needed to survive and manage our resources. Humans are consuming the resources of the planet faster than it can provide. In fact, in 2021, the global human population had fully used the Earth's resources available for a year on July 30th. According to that date, 1.75 planets would be necessary to live the way we are presently living for a year. In India, the earth overshoot day was on July 29th, 2021. In Canada and the United States, the overshoot day has already been reached for 2022. It was on March 13th. That is not due to consuming what is necessary to survive...

Brahmacharya, the fourth Yama, is about correctly using our energy, orienting it towards a higher goal, and restraining our urges and desires. It is easy to relate this principle to the environment. Many of us are harming nature by fulfilling simple desires and not directing energy towards something meaningful or impactful. Instead, one should use his power to help nature and our societies. That can be done in many ways and depends on each other's strengths. Still, Brahmacharya encourages us to find a goal and stick to it to make a difference.

The last Yama is Aparigraha and is about non-possessiveness, non-greediness, and non-attachment. As we know, most countries in the world now function on a capitalist system that encourages us to be individualistic, possessive, greedy, and attached to material things. Aparigraha, applied to the environment, would teach us to let go of the need for possession. It would require changing the system to create a new one directed towards sharing and helping each other and the planet we live on. In that new system, there also should be no sense of power and hierarchy because it most often leads to possessiveness, greediness, and attachment.

So it is pretty easy to associate the principle of Yama with the environment's conservation. Whether or not we describe it in a yogic manner, the principles of non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, energy management, and non-possessiveness can impact how we live. The impact wouldn't only be touching ourselves but would extend to the society, the country, the continent, and the whole planet we live on. The more people following these principles, the better it would get.

So, what should we do? We should keep spreading the word and posing actions to create a better world. At Japam, we do that through education in yoga and environmental fields and the organization of eco-conscious treks. We hope to bring some projects with NGOs to help us reach more people and make a broader change. Don't hesitate to contact us if you have any leads.


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