Any yoga practice worth its downward-facing dog is based on the founding principle of non-violence, or ahimsa (ah-heem-sah). We aim to practice this principle in all areas of our lives – both on the mat as well as off. We’re encouraged to mind our thoughts, consider each word, and evaluate all of our actions. Of course, we refrain from injuring ourselves, but it’s really not about us. We are asked to make all our choices based on what will cause the least amount of harm – to the environment, to all beings and finally, to ourselves. In that order. You see, if we take good care of the environment, we’ll be making choices that will also take care of all sentient beings – both human and animal – which will in turn take care of us. Sound simple? Actually, it is.
The first facility we established at The Canebrake was the Yoga Barn. I knew that we needed to create a safe and healthy haven for yogis, but not at the expense of the environment. We set out to cover as many bases as possible in creating a facility based on the practice of ahimsa. First order of business was to recycle a building; a 4-trailer metal carport. I had already begun using and selling bio-degradable, non-toxic yoga mats by this time and I continue to be impressed with the high quality of eco-friendly mats on the market. My fave right now is Jade Yoga’s Harmony Mat. Lots of stick and grip and a relief to know it’s not off-gassing all over the place like a PVC (widely considered to be the most toxic plastic) mat.
I digress. I’d done enough research to know we should insulate with a product called ‘Ultra Touch’. Made of recycled denim and cotton tees, this fabulous material contains no chemicals or harmful airborne crap that can get into HVAC systems, has no VOC (volatile organic chemicals) outgassing concerns and contains no formaldehyde unlike fiberglass insulation. Whew! Costly? A bit. But worth it. Case in point: Two years ago when we were entirely without power for 11 days during that infamous January ice storm, the practice room of the Yoga Barn held it’s temperature at a steady 35 degrees. Nice…
With the blue jeans tacked into the wall, it was time to paint. Buying local as much as possible, I found that both Sherwin-Williams and Lowe’s carry low- and no- VOC paints. Hooray!! Look for Olympic brand at Lowe’s and Duration Home at Sherwin-Williams. This is an inexpensive and discreet way to green your home or office without breaking the bank or changing political parties.
Over the cement in what is now the practice room, we laid a floating cork floor with radiant heat underneath. The radiant heat offers both efficiency and effectiveness in keeping the room at a comfortable temp. Most yummy since we practice yoga in our bare tootsies. Cork is an increasingly popular product being used in homes – especially in kitchens and bathrooms. Cork creates a warm, comfortable, resilient surface that is sound resistant, anti-microbial, and is inherently resistant to molds and mildews. The cork is harvested from the bark of the Cork Oak (which grows back), not harming the tree at all. Sweet!
Plenty of high windows were placed throughout so we could catch as much natural lighting as the days allow. And of course, compact fluorescent light bulbs everywhere that takes ‘em. Yeah, they cost a tad more, but they use 75% less energy and last up to 10 times longer. That alone makes them a most cost-effective choice.
We have an extraordinary opportunity right now in our current environmental situation to really take our yoga practice off the mat and into the world. The Dalai Lama says that the practice of non-violence is 3-fold: Do no harm, prevent harm, and most importantly, get proactive and do good! Shall we sit back and watch our resources go to hell in a Hummer? The Yoga Barn is a tiny example of ahimsa off the mat. Give some thought to your decisions and ask yourself if this is the choice that will cause the least amount of harm to the environment and all beings. If you can cover that – you’re in by default!!
Lisa Bracken teaches yoga at The Canebrake as well as at NSU. Green your mind and the rest will follow!!