by Danielle Rippingale
A 2002 study at Chiba University showed that workers who routinely spend more than five consecutive hours in front of a computer experienced problems ranging from headaches and stiff shoulders to depression. Fortunately, the practice of yoga (meaning ‘union’) gives us a chance to unplug from the world and connect with our bodies, minds, and spirits.
Yoga is grounded in the understanding that the health of our bodies depends on clean air, water, and food. From the practice blooms a desire to eat organic and wholesome foods in order to cleanse and nourish the body. This effect naturally ripples outward and affects the way the practitioner interacts with their surroundings. When people start to study yoga they become more aware of the physical body, and a natural healing process begins. In other words, we heal the planet by healing the spirit.
In contrast to the health benefits of yoga, many of the cheap mats on the market are made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride)—the most toxic of plastics. PVC is a carcinogenic petroleum by-product that off-gasses, contains hormone-altering phthalates, and doesn’t biodegrade. Your vehicle to enlightenment just hit a speed bump.
Thankfully, mats with a conscience are available from several suppliers, and are PVC-free and decompose completely and safely at the end of their useful life. Natural rubber mats from renewable, non-Amazon harvested rubber trees from Manduka are closed-cell and designed for durability and comfort (www.manduka.com), while Jade offers several styles, including travel and kids mats, and supports causes worldwide, including ‘buy a mat, we plant a tree.’ Jade will soon be releasing eco-props that include an organic cotton strap and recycled wine cork yoga blocks (www.jadeyoga.com).
Non-sustainable petroleum-derived ‘technical’ clothing does little for the planet or your health. Eco-minded Be Present’s recycled PET and organic cotton ‘renew tees’ divert three to five plastic bottles from landfills, so you can breathe and stretch with a clear conscience (available at Oshman’s and Irox). Under layers from BGreen include certified organic cotton panties and bras for comfort and a seamless look (online in Japan at www.live-in-nature.jp).
Yoga Tree is a new yoga studio in Hiroo that lives up to its green name (www.yogatree.jp). Co-owner Michael Glenn speaks of non-harming as one of the fundamental principles of yoga. “As much as possible we tried to minimize the environmental impact in the design of the studio, and adhered to this principle by reusing as many materials as possible and adopting ecologically sound construction methods and choosing eco-friendly props.” The naturally bright studio was painted with low VOC (volatile organic compound) paint and has beautiful natural unvarnished sakura (cherry wood) floors.
Even the environmentally friendly yoga mats were sourced within Japan to reduce transport-related energy costs, and these are available to students at no charge. An eco-boutique offers SIGG drink bottles (www.sigg.com), organically certified Yoga/Meditation Mind Balms from Badger Balm, and delicious healing New Zealand Manuka honey. Students who forget their yoga clothes will be happy they did, with the breathable eco-bamboo wear from Movement available for purchase at the studio (www.thatgirldani.com). To reduce plastic waste, students are able to refill their own water bottles with Mother Water Project spring water (by donation), rather than buying disposable water bottles.
Looking for yoga in English in Tokyo? Visit ‘HelloYoga.com’, a wonderful free information resource at your fingertips http://www.helloyoga.com/. Cultivate your awareness of the earth and the ethical principle of ahimsa (non-harm) by examining your own yoga practice.
Yoga Aid Challenge – A global charity event where participants complete 108 sun salutations to raise money for charity. September 22 in Yokohama (www.yogaaid.jp).
With millions doing yoga worldwide, one has to wonder where all the used yoga mats go? Sun and Moon studio generously receives your clean, used mats and donates them to schools, orphanages, and community centers in Tokyo (http://sunandmoon.jp).