Fairtrade Tea Bag to fair traded Mat Bag
Is yoga a way of life
Does that mean that we have to do yoga all the time, have a yoga mat in every room in case we have a spare 10 minutes to do another round of sun salutations, chant the mantra OM or use a yoga belt to open the hips a little bit further?
No, thank goodness, yoga is not purely a physical practice. In fact, yoga asana (poses) are purely a way to strengthen the body, make the muscles flexible, and concentrate the mind so that sitting can be maintained for long periods of time for meditation. So do we have to meditate to find a mystical experience which will change our lives?
There is no mystery, only magic!
Yoga has a set of principles which call practitioners of yoga to look to the common good, not just ourselves. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras set out a very practical exploration of the human condition and suffering. Often quite difficult to translate, the sutras can be interpreted on many levels but basically, Patanjali suggests that we all suffer, we are all connected in our human-ness, on or off our yoga mat, and he offers many ways to avoid suffering and increase joy and peace of mind in our lives.
The first two rungs of his eight-limbed system, sets out yamas - wise characteristics, and niyamas - codes for living soulfully (reference to translation in footnote). These living principles are concerned with our behaviour - how to live: on a personal level in our relationships to ourselves and others, and how that may impact globally, universally, spiritually. Its a bit like charity starts at home, to change the world, first change yourself kind of philosophy; if you can be kind to your self, your friends and your enemies, you discover how to shift suffering and ignorance.
When Yoga United started producing yoga products in India, they were looking for quality. It all started with one yoga mat bag made by Anandi, a woman in a small fishing village who had a foot peddle sewing machine at home. Once the orders started coming in, Yoga United soon realised that Anandi couldn't fulfil the sizeable orders for yoga mat bags. They had seen first-hand the poor conditions in some sweatshops, the faceless workers in factories, and the long hours and terrible pay. Rather than take the prototype to a factory who could get the job done fast and cheap, they looked for other ways to produce more bags. They used some of the living principles of yoga - specifically compassion, commitment to truth, non-stealing, non-grasping - to help people they knew. With family and friends in Chennai and the surrounding area, Yogamalai was born and provided work to often extended families they knew who were struggling to make a living. Some already had tailoring experience, some needed sewing machines, training and premises. 10 years on, yogamalai have created a whole brand range of products including yoga kit bags, bolsters, eye pillows and gift bags are arriving soon for seasonal gift ideas. Yoga United are delighted to say that they are supporting more than 20 people through their yogamalai initiative and hope that you will be delighted with the quality of the products, and be happy to support and empower women through buying fairly traded mat bags as well as tea bags.
1. Terms as translated by Donna Farhi in her book Yoga Mind Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness - see the first section on 'Living Principles' for a beautifully written introduction to what yoga really means and these ten living principles which are identify yoga practice just as much as any physical practice you may perform on your yoga mat. You can buy this book on the yogaunited website.