June 21st is the International Day of Yoga, and I like to think of it like a new year—a time to refresh your commitment and reflect on your practice and its impact. We checked in with Jessie Svec, a yoga and breathwork practitioner at Saffron & Sage Holistic Health Club for a little insight on how you can use yoga to transform yourself and the world around you for the better.
Image: Jessie Svec of Saffron & Sage
FROM FITNESS TO SOCIAL CHANGE
Svec reminds us that although the buzz is often about yoga’s benefit to the body—strength and flexibility—it’s also about transforming the mind and spirit.
“Within the yoga philosophy, there is an eight-limbed path towards the realization of yoga, or union with the universal self,” she says. “Two of those branches, the yamas and niyamas, are a concrete place to start to understand the bigger picture of yoga. Yamas relate to the way you behave and act outwardly with the world around you, niyamas explain how to act inwardly towards yourself.”
“Within the yamas and niyamas is a positive ‘ripple effect’ that naturally extends into social justice and environmental change. To live a yogic life, in which these aren’t front and center, is not a yogic life at all.”
With everything that’s happening in the world right now, this day is an opportunity to reinvigorate your practice with renewed commitment to your social and environmental impact.
TAKE A SOCIAL STAND
The yoga collective Off The Mat Into The World believes that the tools of yoga and meditation can unlock new levels of self-awareness and accountability—two things that are vital in creating effective social change and a world where wellbeing is a priority for all. Though you might normally participate in their offerings in a studio or retreat, you can still currently take advantage of timely online courses while quarantining. Michelle Cassandra Johnson is scheduled to lead a four-part Dismantling Racism & White Supremacy course beginning June 22 online (it’s already sold out, but recordings will be available on July 2). Or try Yoga, Purpose & Action, led by Off The Mat’s three founders this July—they say the course will inspire you to live a life dedicated to justice and inside-out transformation. For more information: https://www.offthematintotheworld.org/
CLEAN UP YOUR PRACTICE
Back at Saffron & Sage, Svec has three easy ways to make sure your practice is an earth-friendly one. First (and pretty please) ensure you’re using a reusable water bottle. Then make sure you’re wearing something sustainable: Her favorite styles are from companies who are dedicated to sustainable and recycled materials and also donate back to the cause—check out organicbasics, Alternative Apparel, and Threads 4 Thought to explore the latest styles: www.organicbasics.com, www.alternativeapparel.com, www.threads4thought.com
Last but not least, snag an eco-friendly yoga mat—but only when it’s time to invest in a new mat to avoid unnecessary waste, Svec says. She favors Manduka’s EKO series mats, which are made of all natural rubber that’s responsibly sourced, and the company offers a mat recycling program. Explore Manduka mats at www.manduka.com
At Beauty News, we love Jade Yoga’s Harmony Mat—also a super grippy natural rubber with great traction, even when you’re sweaty. It contains no PVC, EVA, or synthetic rubbers that might be found in standard mats. Jade also plants a tree for every mat sold through its partnership Trees for the Future. The only potential drawbacks to natural rubber—there’s a rubber smell that can be strong, and it’s not an option for people with rubber allergies. Explore Jade mats at www.jadeyoga.com
Another sustainable superstar is—cork, a renewable, biodegradable pick. We love the cork mats by 2nd Wind—they have cool, tribal-inspired designs created with water-based ink, they actually get grippier when wet (!) and cork is inherently self-cleaning, so no need for mat cleaner anymore. 2nd Wind also has a donation program—recipients have included rainforest relief, the Special Olympics, and wildlife-centric org WCS. Even 2nd Wind’s packaging and shipping avoids plastics and is recyclable. Explore cork mats at www.2ndwindhealth.com
AND DON’T FORGET TO BREATHE
“The role of yoga here is first and foremost to breathe. Not just the kind of breath that happens subconsciously,” says Svec, “but the kind of breath where you stop, intentionally take time to refill, recharge and re-center. In order to productively create positive change, we must first start with ourselves.”
Don’t forget to visit Saffron & Sage for more wellness goodness: www.saffronsageliving.com.