Nature Rx: 5 Simple Practices to Nourish Your Health while “Greening” Your Footprint
Every day, concerning evidence of the negative impact non-mindful human habits are having on the environment piles up, literally and figuratively. Technology and industry, glorious examples of human creativity, have begun to distance us from our felt-sense experience of the necessity of Earth’s nurturing in our lives. When we become separate from the rhythms of the Earth, we lose an umbilical connection with our own innate wisdom, that thread connecting us with a deeper understanding of our physical, emotional, and spiritual nature. Separated from this awareness, we suffer the adverse health effects of unwise choices and habits. These choices made in unawareness can injure us physically, psychologically, and environmentally.
The teachings of many ancient wisdom traditions, including yoga and Ayurveda, emphasize the importance of understanding the depth of our interconnection: ourselves, our communities, and our planet. The choices we make in self-care, interpersonal communication, and our relationship with the environment create the milieu in which we either thrive or suffer. Humans are microcosmic representations of the environment in which we live. If our planet is suffering the effects of poor stewardship, so will our bodies and spirits. When we tap into a deeper awareness of the subtle (and not so subtle) impacts our choices have on our environment, our health will reflect the natural benefits of living in harmony with, and nurturing the Earth.
Try these 5 Simple Practices to Nourish Your Health while “Greening” Your Footprint
1. Celebrate sunrise with a morning practice
Hello Sunshine! Begin the morning with gratitude for the gift of a new day. Choose just a few minutes each morning to cultivate awareness of the potent life-giving force the sun’s energy brings to our Earth. Notice the subtle seasonal changes of sunrise and the impact of those variations on ourselves and the environment we inhabit. Imagine an opportunity to start each day fresh, and to dive a little deeper into your understanding. Trust that this day will bring precisely the experience that is needed.
There are many morning practices you could choose: create a vital, supple body and calm mind with daily yoga asana (physical postures), bring balance to your nervous system with breath work (pranayama), meditation, or morning prayer.
“Sun Salutations bring you skillfulness for moving your breath and energy. They’ll warm up your muscles and lubricate the joints. The flow of oxygen and blood to your brain nourishes it, relaxes it, and calms down the mind’s chattering.” – Ana T. Forrest, Fierce Medicine: Breakthrough Practices to Heal the Body and Ignite the Spirit
If you are new to yoga and sun salutations, my video below provides a classic sun salutation instruction to get you started!
2. Natural Oils Nourish the Skin
Abyhanga, ayurvedic self oil massage, is a simple and supportive practice that brings vitality to the skin, calm to the nervous system, and helps the lymphatic system drain toxins from the tissues. Use food grade oils such as organic sunflower, sesame, or coconut oil, chosen based on the season and your constitution. A daily massage to the skin and scalp brings a healthy glow without exposing the body to harmful petrol chemicals and parabens found in most commercial lotions.
3. Consider the Benefits of a Local, Seasonal, Plant-based Diet
“Eating a vegetarian diet, walking (exercising) everyday, and meditating is considered radical. Allowing someone to slice your chest open and graft your leg veins in your heart is considered normal and conservative.”–Dean Ornish, M.D., founder of Preventive Medicine Research Institute.
Plant-based food crops require less carbon energy to produce, and leave less waste to be managed than animal sourced foods. Eating a vegetarian or largely plant-based diet, rich in minimally processed fruits, nuts, legumes, grains, and vegetables, provides dense nutrient value, and is proven to support cardiovascular health and reduce cancer risk. Locally sourced foods arrive at your table with more of their natural vibrance and reduce the need for chemical preservatives. Buying local organics also supports your local organic growers and minimizes the energy costs and carbon pollution of transport over great distances.
4. Embrace Moderation
Asteya, or non-stealing, is a core principal of yogic philosophy. Use only what is needed, and avoid ‘stealing’ thru wastefulness. Create sustainable community connections through sharing of abundance. Connect with your community by donating items you are no longer using to organizations serving your neighbors in need.
5. Play in the River and Learn about the Moon
Awareness of the rhythms of nature enhances our understanding of the cycles and patterns of the human experience. Our bodies are made largely of water. Like the tides in the ocean, our bodies are also influenced by the gravitational forces of the moon. Awareness of the moon cycle is a practice that promotes a felt sense experience of the subtleties of our interconnection with the planet and the universe around us. This awareness can help us to appreciate both the humbleness and power of our position as sentient beings. Each action and choice we make creates a ripple which may have impact in ways and places we can not visualize or imagine. Take time to observe and care for the rivers that bring vital water to our communities. Join your local Riverkeeper group or environmental protection organization. Consider how your household waste is handled and find ways to recycle to reduce landfill overuse. Even better, strive to reduce the use of single use plastics and packaging in your purchases. Support companies who are working to produce their products without agrochemicals and plastics which damage water safety and our food sources. Avoid the use of lawn chemicals which will run off into your local streams and waterways, injuring fish and wildlife. Get out and enjoy your city and state parks and nature sanctuaries. Go for a moon lit canoe trip adventure!
Written by: Ann C. Collins, MD, RYT
Photo credits: Ann C. Collins, MD, RYT
Video credit: Ann C. Collins, MD, RYT, David Sims