When Lake Ontario Waterkeeper was asked to speak at the Yoga Sanctuary’s Karma Yoga class, hosted to raise funds for the Great Lakes Trust, I immediately volunteered.
When I’m not working at the LOW office, I teach and practice yoga regularly. I strongly believe that the practice of yoga is a powerful tool that fosters a greater individual connection to, and understanding of, the impact our actions have on the people and environment around us.
In fact, the first limb, or teaching, of yoga is Yama – an ethical standard and personal sense of integrity. Basically, an awareness of how we conduct ourselves in life. The practice becomes even more powerful when taken ‘off the mat’ and out of the studio. It evolves into a commitment to action – or Karma (the literal translation of the sanskrit word) – as this awareness and connection is translated into the interactions of our day-to-day lives.
This recent Karma class was exactly that – a call to action. The call was simple – a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario.
In the early morning hours, in the midst of a heavy downpour, 8 of us rolled out our mats in the 2nd floor studio of the Danforth’s Yoga Sanctuary for a 75 minute hatha practice hosted by Vivian Wong. Vivian asked if there were any swimmers in the room and half the arms shot up, including that of Loren King, the founder of the Great Lakes Trust.
Loren is an open water enthusiast and has swam his whole life, but is preparing to swim across Lake Ontario for the first time this summer.
As we moved through the postures – a series designed with swimmers in mind (but still suitable for all athletes) – I heard rain dripping in through a small hole in the ceiling. To many, a relaxing sound, but I wondered if the water treatment plants would bypass that day and made a mental note that LOW would have to call to find out. It was a timely reminder of the ongoing work that goes into protecting the health of the lakes and those who rely on them. This is the same kind of work for which the Great Lakes Trust was created to support.
At the end of the class, Loren shared a few words about the Great Lakes Trust. To summarize, the trust will be a forever fund to support efforts that will protect the Great Lakes. As Loren eloquently put it, the lakes are changing and the problems we face are so much bigger than any one community or individual generation. It’s important that we act now to protect the Great Lakes and ensure their health. In turn, protecting our own health, for communities and generations to come.
Through a partnership with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper and the Hamilton Community Foundation, the Great Lakes Trust will help individuals and organizations think and act over the long term. The trust will support initiatives ranging from research, artistic expression, public education, and community engagement, all to ensure swimmable, drinkable, fishable Great Lakes.
Loren also spoke about giving back, and how swimmers frequently search for a way to give back to the waterbody from which they’ve received so much. But, you don’t need to be a swimmer to feel that same sense of connection and ownership over the water. Every single one of us relies on the water so, of course, we can all take an active role in protecting it.
There is value in seeing and understanding the impact of our actions on the world around us, re-examining what and how we consume and waste. Once this examination is complete and information gathered, the next step is making sure we act, which means something different for everyone.
That can mean walking outside and jumping in the lake outside your window. Or maybe investigating how water gets from the lake outside to the kitchen sink in you home. Research the laws that protect your water and attend a city council meeting to see how they are enforced.
In the end, it doesn’t matter what you do, it only matters that you do something. Understand that the issues that affect our waters are issues that affect you. And understand that you have an active role to play and commit to take action.