Exploring the intersection of yoga + permaculture: integrate rather than segregate


Image by @shanerounce

Image by @shanerounce

The 8th permaculture principle, “Integrate rather than segregate” is a fascinating exploration into integration and cooperation. 

As Bill Mollison states: “Permaculture therefore is partly a philosophy and practice of integration and cooperation, a shift in focus from the competition and segregation characteristic…to how “parts interact, how they work together with each other, how dissonance or harmony in life systems or society is achieved.”

There are many schools of yoga, and in some cities we can find several studios on one street. Although there are various aspects, areas of emphasis, specialities and focuses, yoga is yoga. “Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India….The word, yoga, comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means “to yoke”. Thus, yoga is the practice that aims to join the mind, body and spirit. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation” (Yogapedia). 

Hatha Yoga, yin yoga, vinyasa flow, core power yoga, hot yoga are all forms I’ve studied or practiced. Presently, I am enjoying an Ashtanga teacher with very specific sequences. I do love to play my favorite music and move freely on my mat, however at the moment I’m really enjoying the structure and form of Ashtanga asana. Like photography and other art forms, we learn theory and form. It is only when we thoroughly, deeply comprehend with pure understanding that we can adapt the art form creatively. In photography composition, one should avoid placing the subject in the center of the photo. However, when you truly understand how to compose a photo, placing your main focus front and center can have a powerful visual impact. While there is benefit of practicing one style of yoga in depth, studying various forms can infuse your practice with synergy and inspiration. Rather than segregating our practice we can learn to integrate what works for us.

B.K.S Iyengar stated, “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again…There is no segregation between our physical postures, our spirit and our breath. They are united and unified…Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul creates the symphony of life…It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence… My Body Is My Temple And Asanas Are My Prayers.” 

Bill Mollison, co-Founder of Permaculture philosophy stated, “[In permaculture design], we see time, space, and functions all used in a complex and non-competitive way, and glimpse something of the potential for designers to enrich human societies providing that no individual or group claims a right to sole use at all times for an area.” From observing the innate nature of ecology, we can noticed that the relationship which exists between species and systems supersedes the importance of that single organism, much like the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Similarly, each person holds unique gifts and specific characteristics. 

A spiritual teaching provides this metaphor: “The body is a unit, made up of many parts, and every one of you are part of it.”  Try to envision humanity as a tribe, as a unit or as a body. Sometimes we  would like to be something important, like the vital organs of the heart or the brain. Consider the value of your underrated pinky toe, providing a considerable amount of balance to the body. If an ear was lying lonely in the forest, would it hear a tree fall on it? I reckon the ear would at least need a brain to send neurotransmitters to give it the ability to hear. Just as our body is interconnected and all parts contribute to a thriving organism, we, as people are a unit, a team. If I’m the belly button, I’ll be the belly button. We’d all do well to do well with what we do well. Accept your “YOUniqueness”. “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well” (MLK Jr.). 

“This permaculture principle is such a beautiful yogic principle. It’s practically in the definition, to yolk, to connect. It applies both in the practice of bringing all our tensions, aggressions, fears and other negative emotions to the forefront, that they may be seen as they are felt, understood as they are, and through this deep looking and understanding, eventually released. Integrate these negative seeds into the light of your heart with utmost diligence, so that your garden can grow. It is all part of the sacred journey, because it is all a part of our journey, which is inseparable from the practice of Yoga. There can be no purity on the mat or cushion when there is no purity on the couch or walking down the street, and once we are on the path, that very purity that is intrinsically in All things, which will provide the friction (against our impurities) to drive us in our Yogic works. Just try positive thinking or avoidance of compartmentalization on the weeds in your garden at home. They are there, and must be seen and understood to be weeds-good compost perhaps, but certainly not the harvest you are looking for! Just as it is with “no waste,” all the ugly and beautiful parts must be integrated in the Yogic path and seen through the unifying eye of Understanding, Forgiveness, Love and Wisdom” Breeze of Compassion, forest yogi. 

In Permaculture philosophy each essential function is supported by many elements and each element provides many functions. So it is with the Sangha. Our tribe exists to support one another and uplift and bring to light our true nature. In what ways can you integrate your mind with your body and your body and mind with your spirit? What does Sangha mean to you? Who is in your tribe? How can you collaborate and integrate with your soul, your surroundings, your biggest dreams, your smallest ponderings, and your tribe? How can you accept your own body, and all of its parts? And the role of your body in the larger organism of humanity? May we all come together and integrate towards a thriving human tribe.

2 thoughts on “Exploring the intersection of yoga + permaculture: integrate rather than segregate”

  1. Great article! Thank you for these sometimes very subtle distinctions of what I am aiming/end gaining for in my practice and what turns out to be a distraction really.

  2. I agree with this completely, Yoga helps in maintaining our sanity. Also it help relieves almost all problems of our body. We also have some really good ways to Balance the Root Chakra (Muladhara)… here is how it works: https://bit.ly/2XBSrHz

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