If you’ve ever wished for the peaceful bliss of savasana once you’re off your yoga mat and in the real world — you know, the one littered with plastic trash and honking, air-pollution spewing cars — then I’ve got a summer eco-reading assignment for you: Yoga for a World Out of Balance: Teachings on Ethics and Social Action.

Here’s a book that makes some links between your yoga practice and environmental consciousness and activism — a connection you may have made in the past, even if you’ve never really explored the links. Ever noticed how green-leaning neighborhoods are often full of yoga studios? I’m not sure exactly why this is — Perhaps a search for balance on the yoga mat naturally makes us seek out ecological balance too, or perhaps left-leaning green neighborhoods tend to be more well-to-do — and thus better able to support studios that charge $15 – $24 per class. In any case, Yoga for a World Out of Balance could help you better explore the links between your yoga practice and your environmental concerns.

Of course, if you asked Michael Stone, the psychotherapist and yoga teacher who authored the book, he’d likely say no links are necessary between your life on and off the mat — because the two are one and the same. In fact, much of applying yogic principles to the rest of life is simply realizing that “yoga” is not some separate thing you do. Yoga is life.

That means those hoping for a typical self-help type instruction manual will be disappointed with Yoga for a World Out of Balance. This book has no 12-step program to follow, no doctrine to adopt that will turn you into an always-calm yogi. The narrative of this book is more meditative than instructional. Writes Michael:

We don’t need ideology or theology in order to affirm the diversity and interrelatedness of all life, but we certainly need the tools for learning how to cultivate attentiveness and to balance our internal energy patterns so that we have vitality and clarity which we can bring to the complex issues of a world out of balance.
For Michael, deepening your yogic practice isn’t about retreating from the world to reach some higher, purer state on your own — but about engaging the world in its messy state. In this sense, Yoga for a World Out of Balance unites a postmodern, relational sensibility with yogic unity to point at the interdependence and interrelational aspects of our world. Michael shares a telling example of how the complex challenges we now face that are best tackled with flexibility, not eco-dogma:
When a bear was shot by our neighbor, we were outraged that a bear was shot, that we are crowding their space, that they have no food. But we were surprised to learn that is fur was turned into mittens and its meat shared with several families. Not one hair or bone was wasted. the killing of a dangerous bear became a lesson for me in the complexity of ethical responsiveness.
Yoga for a World Out of Balance certainly draws from a complex mix of thinkers. In the book — which boasts a foreword by B.K.S. Iyengar — Michael quotes everyone from Patanjali to Paul Hawken, Rene Descartes to Rachel Carson. Read to rethink what you consider yoga, ecological responsibility, and environmental activism. Yoga for a World Out of Balance is out in paperback for $17.95.
The Eco-conscious yogi
Michael Stone's 'Yoga For a World Out of Balance' explores yoga as part of the greater ecological system.