International Yoga Day

A chat with Robin Hanson, Nature Seychelles’ Eco-Health Manager and Green Yoga teacher

When and why did you get into yoga?
When I was 20 years old, I hit rock-bottom after suffering from serious depression. Life seemed meaningless, I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and I felt utterly lost. I then started to search for a way to lift myself out of this and I found Buddhism and meditation. Suddenly, it was like there was light after stumbling around in pitch-black darkness.

Several months later, I discovered yoga and found a new way to grow; combined with Buddhism and meditation, I felt content, at peace and that I had a sense of purpose. Although I enjoy the physical benefits of the practice, yoga for me is about personal transformation and spiritual growth.

I wanted to share what I had gained through yoga with others and started a four year course to becoming a qualified yoga teacher with the British Wheel of Yoga. At about the same time, I began my university education in conservation biology.

Is this how you came to work for Nature Seychelles?
Some of my earliest memories are from taking nature walks around England and being in such awe of nature. That is how my love for nature grew. Additionally, when I was in university, I started to learn of the scientific proof that nature can have in improving our health. After completing my university degree, I worked as a conservation biologist managing nature reserves before joining Nature Seychelles.

When I saw Nature Seychelles’ advert for an Eco-Health Manager, it was as if it was written for me. I did not come up with the concept of Eco-Health, but I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to grow and nurture this seed through managing The Sanctuary and teaching Green Yoga for the last five years that I have been with the organisation.

 Ms Kerstin Henri, Nature Seychelles Director (right) regularyly attends the Green Yoga sessions at The Sanctuary

What is Green Yoga?
Green yoga is the synergy between nature and yoga, both of which have fantastic benefits to our wellbeing. Sometimes these benefits overlap and their effect is enhanced by bringing the practices together and sometimes they carry unique benefits which work in very close relation to each other.

Bringing nature and yoga together in one practice can therefore have a far broader reach. Green yoga also allows us to get in contact with nature thereby allowing us to have a greater respect and appreciation for the environment than a normal yoga practice.

Can Green Yoga therefore help address climate change?
Absolutely! Our awareness of nature and its importance to our wellbeing through the practice of yoga can be the very thing that helps build momentum for the conservation of the environment. In addition, when we experience true happiness and contentment within, we stop searching for it without, reducing consumption and the pressure on limited resources. At the same time our empathy for others increases again leading to sharing limited resources more freely.

Yoga in nature lets you slow down and really appreciate what is important in life and really experience the benefits to your health and happiness. Once you really appreciate nature’s true worth which is not only clean air and water, carbon storage, food and so forth, but other aspects such as its beauty which can have a calming effect on us as well as make us happy, then we can truly begin to appreciate the qualitative value of nature.

 Ministers St Ange and Meriton were among the 500 who took part in the IYD celebrations in Seychelles

In your opinion, is it important to have a day dedicated to celebrating yoga?
On a personal level, the International Yoga Day was a great learning experience for me to work with other yoga teachers in Seychelles as they practice different types of yoga and bring their own unique touches to the practice. It was also wonderful to have the yoga teachers come together, some I had met and some I had heard about, and to form what I believe will be a strong and lasting bond.

Having co-anchored the morning yoga session and from developing the evening performance for the day’s celebrations while working closely with other yoga teachers and incorporating the different views, I think that such a day is very important to make the public aware of the different types of yoga. An international day to celebrate yoga can also hopefully attract people to the practice and the many benefits.

There are still some misconceptions about yoga which are sometimes personal or coming from a person in authority, for instance a religious leader, and International Yoga Day can reduce or even remove these by showing people that yoga does not do anything to you, it’s not a pill that changes you, it’s a practice that you explore, experience and decide to take wherever you want.

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