Exploring the Intersection of Yoga + Permaculture: Catch & Store Energy

A wind turbine catches and stores energy in Toronto, Ontario.

A wind turbine catches and stores energy in Toronto, Ontario.

Exploring the intersection of permaculture and yoga yields unending parallels. Both permaculture and yoga exist as a way of life, an approach to being. Catching, storing and sustaining energy is an emphasis found within both practices.

Permaculture encourages the development of systems of recycling, reusing, restoring, revamping and rejuvenating. We learn how to collect resources when they are abundant. Energy flows such as water, wind, & sun, and produce products, such as harvesting crops in due season. When planted products overflow, exceeding the expectation of the farmer, produce is often lost, due to eventual over-ripening or an unbalanced supply and demand ratio. However, harnessing such resources in their abundance allows for creativity and strategy, and we can employ juicing, canning, preserving & dehydrating to extend the longevity of the items & expand their purposes. 

If we look to the natural world, we notice that squirrels store up supplies in the Summer to sustain their squirrel essence throughout the Winter. Surfers harness the momentum of the wave, to catch the dynamic energy and experience the ripple effect on the ride of the tide. This principle can also remind us to make the most of the energy of the mind, body and spirit when we are refreshed, and remembering to allow extra time and space to refill when depleted. In the words of an introverted writer,  “My personality is like a power drill, it needs four hours of charging for one hour of use.” We would be wise to consider this analogy next time we are worn down but feel pressure to stay busy and get all the things done. Some yogic practitioners advocate abstaining from or limiting asana practice during one’s moon time & rather focusing inwardly on meditation. Paying attention to the natural cycles within and around us can support our practice and help us to align with the truth of our energetic and physical capacities.

Practicing pranayama ignites the skill of how to build, store and properly use prana (the universal life force energy). In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali shares the ancient wisdom that:

“Pranayama is the conscious awareness of breath: the life force that both energizes and relaxes the body.”

“As intense discipline burns up impurities, the body and it’s senses become supremely refined.” Becoming aware of our own life force and how the breath supports us to catch and store energy can support the wellbeing of our physical and energetic bodies. 

“What increases the more it is used?” I recall my permaculture teacher asking students to ponder this riddle. Such a paradoxical feat is the essence of a permaculture lifestyle. Consider concepts like imagination, knowledge and breath. All of these exist in abundance, and as we actually use them with more frequency and vivacity, we develop a greater capacity. A dear friend of mine recently stopped smoking tobacco  after smoking for half of his lifetime. He now uses the time and energy he spent smoking to cultivate his pranayama practice. He practices holding a one minute breath, and is up to practicing cycles of holding this 60 second breath, then releasing, many times repeatedly in 30 minute intervals. Rather than the brief stress relieving practice of smoking, which is enjoyed for five to ten minutes, he enjoys the 24 hour luxury of deep and sustained breathing, including the awareness and presence of breath itself. In this case, he is catching and storing his breath and building up his lung capacity, rather than depleting it with fleeting pleasure. 

Practicing periods of celibacy is a way that, not only monks but all of us, can catch and store energy, as Jing is depleted in sexual practices. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Jing is considered the essence of life. Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that we’re all born with a certain amount of Jing, and this source of our essence is depleted via stress, substance abuse and sex, though can be rejuvenated with meditation & nourishing foods. Monks believe that by abstaining from sex, they can catch and store this energy to use for spiritual purposes & bodhisattva service. Proverbs 4:23 states: “Guard your heart with all diligence/vigilance, for from it flow springs of life.” By practicing brahmacarya, the lessons of right use of energy & conservation can be realized, and a proper, balanced amount of energy may be spent and shared. “Brahmacharya is typically translated as ‘going after Brahman’ or ‘behavior that leads to Brahman,’ with Brahman being the Divine creator, or higher Self, in Hinduism and yoga. It is often associated with celibacy. The Sanskrit term is derived from Brahman, meaning ‘Ultimate Reality’ or ‘Divine Creator,’ and charya, meaning ‘to move’ or ‘to follow.’ Brahmacharya is also frequently translated as ‘right use of energy.’” (Yogapedia). While Brahmacharya, the 4th Yama, is often, in translation, correlated with celibacy, it is also, more modernly, thought of as meditation in action, bringing awareness to the purity and virtue in daily interactions, in thought and deed.  We can also consider it as a guideline around how we utilize our energy. Are we conscious of how we are using our energy? Where are we expending energy unecessarily? Consider how much energy is used in recalling a particular story again and again in our minds. Or how much energy we spend thinking about what others think of us? Or how much energy our attachments to material objects or relationships consumes? See if you can find one example of where you are leaking energy in this way and consider how to bring that energy back to your core. 

Consider the habitual patterns and practices that create your day to day life. What routines and rituals may be holding you back from fulfilling your dreams? What are your dreams? Take time to recall your inspirational dreams, which may be hidden in the dusty attic of your mind. Deep clean those cabinets of concepts, to reawaken your life’s vibrant vision. Be intentional about catching the thoughts/stories/patterns that are  consuming energy from the temple of your spirit. By becoming aware and shifting your mindset, you can remove those obstacles, enhancing your energy. Consider the food that is fuelling you. What medicines are you consuming? Are you nourishing and nurturing your body, mind and spirit? What spiritual solar panels can you install today in your spirit to better align, define, preserve, protect and sustain the source of your soul’s life force energy?  Please include any insights you’d like to share in the comments below. 

~ Arli ~ 

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