My First Online Yoga "Challenge"
By: Elika Aird

I just finished a 10-day online eco-challenge~ called Earth Empowerment, led by my teacher, Shiva Rea to raise awareness about environmental issues, while relating yoga practices to elements in nature. And trust me, I’m NOT someone who regularly does social media challenges at all! I really admire yogis that have the dedication and discipline to stick with some of the challenges that are 30 days or more, but sometimes they feel very pretentious and as if they were driven by ego. Shiva’s “challenge” was great for the first-timer like me, since it required little effort, just a lot of heart and a desire to empower each other to love Mama Earth a little more.

On the first day of the challenge, we started by setting our intentions and I was full of thoughts that I’ve been trying to run from ~ ”You don’t have time” “ You have too many other commitments to add another.” “Your efforts can’t really affect change.” But deep inside I knew better, and thankfully my highest Self chimed in, reminding me it was the perfect time to challenge myself to re-ignite the fire in my practice and also stand-up for planetary peace and healing. I felt very clear about my intentions…and it was ON! As we started the challenge, we were guided by the last teachings of the Buddha:

Be a light unto yourself
If you light a lamp for somebody, it will also brighten your path.
Happiness never decreases by being shared

I have never been a huge activist with any environmental groups, although I have a deep respect and connection with the earth. So this was kind of new for me, but I found myself really excited about the possibilities of the earth empowerment practices inspiring someone else in a way that might ultimately help our planet and possibly spread happiness and love. One light being passed at a time is how we create change and I started feeling it was time to stop being apathetic, thinking that someone else will save the planet, but not me. Its time to stop robbing Mother Earth, living rent free, and begin to take some action…any amount is honorable.

Each day I rose, excited to scout out a beautiful place in nature around the Bay Area to serve as background for the pose of the day. I was so grateful to spend the last few days of the challenge on the southern coast of California in Cambria and got some amazing shots (seen here). With each day, I felt more deeply connected to the earth and to all beings. It’s as if a spark was lit in the part of my consciousness that was feeling stuck, limited and ultimately helpless in regards to the livelihood of the planet. I was reminded that our essence is Infinite and according to the original tantric teachings we are flowing in a vibration of goodness and pure bliss. Wow! Even if you’re not too sure about that, you must admit it really sounds amazing! Once I let go of judgments and limitations I had about doing an online “challenge” I allowed the magic of our collaborative efforts to shine brightly and honor the magnitude of all our little actions coming together to spread peace and global change. This quote by Marianne Williamson is one of my favorite and is a wonderful reminder when we forget our universality and start to identify with the “smaller” self (that’s the one that is a little too comfortable with suffering) .

“And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

In 10 days I challenged my commitment to the earth and also to my practice and proved to myself that my little light shining could make a difference. As I shined my light throughout this challenge, I believe strongly that I unconsciously reminded someone to shine theirs. My hope is that one of my followers discovered some new strength or re-ignited a forgotten passion that leads them to shining their light brighter than before.

Many business ideas die in someone’s mind regretfully because they were not able to release the thought “what if I fail.” But once someone becomes that shining example of where we can go, we can be encouraged to take that big leap of faith and realize the success that was seeking us all along. If I would have let my “thinking mind” take over, I would have believed I couldn’t do the challenge and that I wasn’t making any difference at all by participating. But thankfully, I was curious and I trusted my teacher to lead us in a way that would really empower us….and so it did! Now you’re NEXT!!!

I’m so inspired by all the creative ways yogis used to honor the earth throughout the challenge, that I now want to make Earth Day everyday! I want to do more for Mother Earth and I know you do too, so let’s keep it simple. So here are a few suggestions outside the standard green living practices:

  • In your yoga practice, honor the earth element each time you touch the ground by saying thank you or Om Apanaya Swaha – I honor the downward/rooting energy flow
  • Honor the element of fire in your body, as it relates to digestion by eating in tuned with nature and keeping your internal organs functioning properly.
  • Another way to honor the elements of fire and possibly air, is to “turn off the lights, light a candle...” yes I said it! For one night do a complete Energy Fast. Live by candlelight for one night like its 1899.
  • Honor the air element by planting trees that help purify the air we breathe.