Our understanding of who embodies the character of a “yogi” is often limited to the faces we see on Yoga Journal covers and the practitioners on the mats next to us.
This Earth Day, we’d like to highlight some of our favorite “non-traditional” yogis, individuals connecting with their innermost selves to unite community, wisdom, and action in a way that brings more balance to our relationship with the planet. Although many of them (except maybe Julia) may have never stepped foot on a yoga mat, they live what it means to be yoga.
Karma Yogi: Julia Butterfly Hill
Julia Butterfly Hill is an American environmentalist, poet, and public speaker best known for her 738 day protest in a massive 1500-year-old Redwood tree (affectionately known as “Luna”) in California. With the help of a supportive activist community, Hill spent over two years of her life living on a platform high in Luna’s branches as a peaceful means to prevent loggers from cutting it down. She is the author of the book The Legacy of Luna and One Makes the Difference.
Jnana Yogi: Joanna Macy
Eco-philosopher Joanna Macy is a scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves scholarship with four decades of engaged action in her community. Her work helps people transform the despair felt at overwhelming social and ecological crises into constructive, collaborative action. She says it brings a new way of seeing the world– as a larger living body– that frees us from the attitudes and assumptions that now threaten the continuity of life on Earth.
Bhakti Yogi: Wendell Berry
Conservationist, farmer, environmental activist, essayist, and poet, Berry’s poetry speaks volumes more than a bio ever could:
The Peace of Wild Things
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Bonus Karma Yogi: Wangari Maathai
Wangari Maathai is an environmentalist, civil society and women’s rights activist, and a former parliamentarian. In the 1970s, she founded the Green Belt Movement, a non-governmental organization that uses tree planting as an entry point for self-determination, equity, improved livelihoods and security, and environmental conservation. In 2004, she became the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Her most recent book is Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World.
Tell us, who are your favorite earth day yogis?