Living Yoga & Permaculture: Off the Mat, Into the Garden

How is the flower’s existence much like our own?

Permaculture is inherently about interconnectedness. Permaculture, or “permanent agriculture”, is so much more than the name represents. A permaculture design incorporates various systems that give and receive from each other to create a thriving, sustainable community. Nature gives us infinite abundance, and through the gift of the human intellect, curiosity, creativity, and will we are able to harmonize with nature to build even more abundance for humans and nature both, not only in agriculture itself but in community, love, empowerment, health, and spiritual connection. The gifts we receive from working with the earth are tenfold what we might first expect. After all, Mother Earth is a living organism, and her existence is itself a mysterious miracle. When we commit to sustainable living, we are entering a world that goes beyond the science and theory. We begin to touch upon the very mystery of life itself. Observe a flower opening to the sun, or the persistent beating of your heart. Therein lies the essence of life.

Here enters the incredible practice of yoga. Yoga is a spiritual practice from India, first brought to the West in the 20th century where it became wildly popular and exploded into various styles and schools, like a tree that grows many branches. The physical postures being just one part of it, a holistic practice of yoga delves deeply into ethics, discipline, and meditation, guiding us towards Pure Awareness, or purusha. The Yoga Sutras, sometimes referred to as “the yoga bible”, is a blueprint for the yogic path as outlined by the sage Patañjali around the year 400 CE. It is through this text and its lineage that we go deeper into mysticism; just as with permaculture, if we explore beyond the surface, we discover a spiritual journey. We find mystery. We may even find purpose, the spark of creation that moves us to action, and love.

Just as our earth has many physical and energetic layers, so does the human being have the corporeal body, the thriving systems inside that body, and energetic layers that comprise a whole being. Inside our very selves is an interdependent community of systems that we see reflected in nature’s own relationships. Nature teaches us about cycles, which we see on various scales, be it the life cycle of a flower, the movement of day and night, or the cycle of earth’s revolution around the sun. Likewise, our human experience ebbs and flows in a world of earthly duality—times for planting and harvest, times for sorrow and joy. At the center of the turning wheel of experience—or the cresting and crashing of the waves—there is a center, a middle ground. Here is where Pure Awareness rests, where stillness abides. In yogic philosophy there are these three aspects represented by gunas, qualities of material nature. Rajas is the time of birth, growth, building, creating. Tamas is the time of death, slowing down, breaking apart, destruction. Sattva is the stillness, the space between the two moving pieces, where we find balance and calm. Consider the breath: between the inhale and the exhale there is a moment of sattva, a moment where we are neither inhaling nor exhaling, a pause. It is motionless. It abides in the eternal. Then consider a flower again, how it opens to the sun, exists, and eventually dies. How is the flower’s existence much like our own? How is the flower’s response to the sun and moon much like our own? How is the flower breathing like we do? And aren’t we all connected through the cycle of rajas, tamas, and sattva?

Therefore let us sit on our meditation cushions and let us work in the garden! Within yoga and within permaculture, we find both movement and stillness, action and surrender. We are simultaneously powerful visionaries whose will manifests on earth as well as humans who flow with the greater forces of nature and the wisdom of our bodies. Through the lifestyles of yoga and sustainability we can cultivate ways of navigating and embracing human existence; we bring the lessons we discover on the mat into the garden, and the lessons from the garden onto our mat. We realize that we are not only connecting to our immediate world but to eternal cycles and to a powerful, global lineage of humans who sought enlightenment in the caves of the Himalayas, planted seeds in the Andean mountains, and built homes with their own hands—who curiously looked up at the stars, longed for connection with a power greater than themselves, and who committed their lives to a journey into the mystery. We realize that all the lessons we are learning can be brought to our families, communities, and to people all over the world!

Combining yoga and permaculture, therefore, is more than simply about building a beautiful, sustainable homestead or community. What we seek is to empower ourselves to do that and more, if we desire! The incredible love that works behind our will and our actions is a force that has created everything on earth—everything! The attraction of particles, the movement of the waters flowing from one place to another, the biochemical processes that brought our very bodies into being. As we embrace love as the most powerful force in our lives, we discover a vast, enriching world of possibility. We discover we can use the love in our hearts to build with our hands, and the work of our hands can nourish our hearts. It’s a sustainable cycle! It’s yoga! It’s permaculture! It’s LIFE!


Version of the The Yoga Sutras referenced:

Hartranft, Chip. The Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. Boston: Shambala Classics, 2003.

*Featured photo courtesy of permacultureinstitute.org

What excites you about living yoga and permaculture? We invite you to comment and share your inspirations and experiences!