The Importance of Nature in the practice of Yoga and Meditation

I have worked in several Integrative Medicine centres using Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation in treatment protocols successfully, and especially so in preventative healthcare.

The forces of nature

At its core, Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation work with the forces of nature i.e. prana, doshas, chakras etc. Originally, Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation were practised in nature e.g. by rivers, gardens, mountains etc. Research shows  that yoga and meditation retreats are efficacious; see Apple A Day RX blog.

However, due to our modern-day lifestyle, our lives centre around the internet, social media, urbanisation, fast foods and reduced physical activity. Once we add the effect of global warming and increased pollution it is not surprising the risk factors for chronic disease keep increasing.

The link between environment and dementia

A tenet of Integrative Medicine and many Complementary and Alternative Medicine systems including Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Yoga and Meditation is our relationship with the environmental factors. Often, we tend to underestimate this relationship until it has a critical effect on our health. This impact of poor environmental conditions in relation to health has been highlighted in a recent publication in the prestigious Lancet journal.  The Complementary and Alternative Medicine study concluded that people living near busy roads face a higher risk of developing dementia compared with those living more than 300 metres away.

The study by Chen et al who looked at the relationship between the people living near busy roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. The Complementary and Alternative Medicine study were carried out in Ontario, Canada on April 1, 2001, on Canadian-born residents who were free of these neurological diseases. The two population-based cohorts were:

  • all adults aged 20–50 years (about 4·4 million; multiple sclerosis cohort)
  • all adults aged 55–85 years (about 2·2 million; dementia or Parkinson’s disease cohort)

While there was no association found with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, there was:

  • 7% higher incidence of dementia for people living less than 50 metres from a major traffic road
  • 4% higher incidence of dementia for people living 50 -100 metres from a major traffic road
  • 2% higher incidence of dementia for people living 101–200 metres from a major traffic road
  • 0% higher incidence of dementia for people living more than 200 metres from a major traffic road

Yoga and Nature

From the Integrative Medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga and Meditation perspective this is not a surprise. However, as Complementary and Alternative Medicine practitioners, we need to move away yoga workout in gyms, heated rooms and studios and return to practicing Yoga and Meditation in nature and in an environment of ‘pure’ prana.

This viewpoint was further validated by a recent study. As the eminent Acharya”s of Vedanta-Yoga Dr David Frawley stated, ‘True Yoga works with nature and is able to awaken the higher powers of nature within us. This is not something that can be measured or reflected in a commercial way or by marketing. Yet it is something that we can bring into Yoga classes and Yoga teachings. Bringing out the ecological and planetary importance of Yoga and Ayurveda is the real mission to be taken up – and one that has benefits far beyond any boundaries or measurements, not only for ourselves but for future generations.