Yoga is all about connection to Source, which can be found in the deeply-rooted elements of the natural world. The ancient yogis studied nature to a tee, and worked to align themselves with the innate wisdom that the cycles of nature hold.
I didn't truly feel connected to nature until I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, several years ago. Nature was everywhere and the culture lent itself to deep immersion in Mother Nature's primordial beauty. While I no longer live in the midst of the Pacific, I've taken that connection to nature with me and relish the way the natural cycles of life enhance my daily life.
Mother Earth is full of infinite wisdom, and it’s our duty as devoted spiritual practitioners to heed her sage advice. Tuning into nature’s dynamic play is one of the most fascinating things we can do as we journey along our path to Spirit.
In this piece, I'll talk about how we yogis can enhance our connection to the natural world through our lifestyle and yoga practice, and why we should.
How to Connect With Mother Nature
Natural Sleep Cycles
Consider for a moment just how interconnected we are to the natural world. We typically wake with the rising sun and wind down our days to the soft glow of moonlight. And if we’re not doing this, and sleeping and waking at all crazy hours of the day or night, it’s important that we align our sleeping patterns with those of Mother Nature. This is one of the easiest and most profound ways to tap into our own natural rhythms and connect to the wise rhythms of the natural world. Taking this small step will help us become more aware of the divine play of nature.
Another way to tap into the divine play of nature is to bring our attention to our breath. Every inhalation and exhalation is an exchange of energy between ourselves and our surroundings. We breathe in the life force of the universe, in all her beautiful plants, trees and lush landscapes. We breathe out our own life force energy, feeding the plants, trees and beings around us. It’s all a truly intimate exchange when we get really quiet and think about this subtle yet profound exchange and connection.
(More on the breath in Conscious Breathing Will Boost Your Yoga Practice.)
Mimick Nature Through Asana
When you begin to think about the many yoga poses that get their names from nature, you can see just what an integral part nature plays in the yoga tradition. There’s tree pose, lion pose, and pigeon pose...I could go on and on. You can see how the ancient yogis were studying and mimicking nature when they came up with the postures and their names.
(There are even several variations of each pose, such as Pigeon Pose: 6 Variations of Yoga's Popular Hip-Opening Posture.)
Whenever you want to take part in nature’s eternal dance, get outside as often as possible. Walk barefoot in the sand or grass when the weather permits. Lay in your front yard and gaze at the clouds passing overhead. Take some time to do this, and allow yourself to bask beneath the sun.
At night, spend a bit of precious time gazing at the stars. Bathe under the sun, and even under the moonlight. There is such endless wonder in those celestial beings and when we slow down to appreciate them, we can better understand our interconnectedness to the grand play of it all.
(More on this nighttime practice in Swap Sunbathing for Moonbathing This Summer to Cool Your Fiery Pitta Dosha.)
Benefits of Connecting to Nature
Promotes Peace and Love
Aligning ourselves with the play of nature helps us open our hearts and minds to become more loving and peaceful individuals in all that we do. Think about how good it feels to practice yoga on a beach or some other quiet place in nature. Lying in savasana under the sun, while taking in the healing energy of the sky that envelops us like a warm blanket, feels like pure bliss. Our nervous system slows to a pace that’s more aligned with nature’s underlying rhythm — slow, silent, patient. It’s from this rhythm that we can give of ourselves fully; and from a place of infinite love and compassion.
(Perhaps you're needing to Come Back to Love: Insights and Exercises to Help You Love Again (or More).)
Aligns Our Life
When it comes down to it, yoga teaches us that we are nature. We aren’t separate from it. We are in the universe and the universe is within us. Realizing that we aren’t separate from this living, breathing planet helps us better integrate our lives and our practice with Mother Nature’s natural rhythms and eternal dance. Yoga and her sister science, Ayurveda, teach us that we must align ourselves with nature in order to live a long, happy and healthy life.
It all makes sense, given that our bodies are made up of the same elements that constitute the universe. There’s air, water, ether, fire and earth. There’s energy, vibrations and minerals. We’re all made up of this divine stuff! The macrocosm is a reflection of the microcosm, and vice versa.
Heals Us Naturally
Even science has proven that the more time we spend outdoors, amongst nature’s precious glory, the healthier we become. Spending time in nature helps us let go of physical tension and mental stress. In fact, nature even works as a natural anti-inflammatory.
The teachings of yoga help us slow down and attune ourselves to the vast wisdom that nature holds. The more time we spend getting intimate with this wisdom, the more abundant our lives will be — in every way. So, go ahead and slow down. Practice yoga outdoors. Take long walks in nature and ponder her marvelous play!
(Continue reading in Get Grounded This Earth Day and Try 'Earthing'.)