There are as many definitions of permaculture as there are practitioners, or so it seems. But they all revolve around the ethics of taking care of the earth and taking care of people. At its core permaculture is about finding a path to live in the right relationship with our landscape and planet. This right relationship seeks a harmonic balance between our needs for food, shelter, housing and culture and the needs of our Earth’s bioregions for long-term ecological health.
Yoga too has many forms. At their core is the striving for a balance of forces: breath, body, mind and spirit. A regular study and practice of yoga, (as well as tai chi, and similar moving meditations), promotes good health, confidence, strength and flexibility. These give us resilience and can help to balance the conflicts modern life imposes on our bodies and our spirits.
The roots of yoga can be traced back over 3500 years. Today’s many yoga traditions have developed to integrate yoga into modern society. The roots of permaculture seem more recent, but were strongly influenced by the study of aboriginal cultures’ relationship to their environment. In many ways, permaculture is an attempt to utilize ancient knowledge of how to live more ecologically to design solutions for the best way to live today. And so, both yoga and permaculture strive to promote harmony: yoga, harmony within ourselves, and permaculture, harmony with each other and with nature.
It is not surprising then, that there is an emerging kinship between permaculture and yoga. Many yoga retreat centers world wide are offering permaculture programs, and are utilizing permaculture design to develop more sustainable and regenerative facilities. Many permaculture teachers make time for a daily meditation and yoga practices in courses and programs.
My own journey into yoga led me to spend three months at the Suryalila Yoga Retreat Center in Andalusia, Spain. Suryalila, which means Cosmic Play of the Sun, is an excellent name for this sun filled retreat, located amidst hundreds of ancient olive trees and vast vistas of mountains and valleys and distant white washed villages. Here one can indeed play in the sun. Yoga classes are offered several times each day for guests. Fruit trees and gardens help supply the kitchen, where the chefs prepare three creative and nourishing vegetarian meals each day.
While Suryalila offers guests and yoga students a taste of paradise, the owners realized that they needed to manage and develop their land in a manner that regenerated the soils and the ecosystem. And so they created a not for profit permaculture project they call Danyadara. The name Danyadara is derived from Sanskrit words meaning Blessed Earth. The Danyadara Project has several goals. First and foremost is to reverse the process of desertification that is occurring in the worn soils and changing climate of this region of Spain. Permaculture design is being used to guide the development of the gardens, surrounding landscape, manage the olive groves and to transform a large wheat field into a food forest of legumes and tree crops. Other goals of the project include: regenerating the soil; increasing food self reliance on site; educating guests, students and neighbors about permaculture and ecological land use; and building community and networks to increase the impact of their efforts.
The merging of yoga and permaculture at Suryalila Retreat Center is an inspiration. The daily practice of yoga and meditation, the nurturing environment and the meaningful work of regenerating a tired landscape are combined with a long term vision implemented at a steady, measured pace. The work of the staff, the gardeners, and the volunteer permaculture students all flows together, like the cosmic play of the sun on the blessed earth.
Three Sisters Permaculture Design is working with Danyadara to offer a Permaculture Design Course in March of 2018. www.threesisterspermaculture.com