It’s amazing to think that most of the cells in your body aren’t even human ones but a collective of microorganisms that work (mostly) synergistically to help us in a vast array of essential tasks, from digesting food to protecting our skin, even generating some nutrients. The human microbiome is a driver of both our physical and mental health. Because of this, some scientists say we should consider it a new organ system.
While there’s still a long way to go before we can say that we truly understand the human microbiome, it does provide us with an excellent analogy for the way life on our planet works.
We Are All (Inter)Connected
Like the Brazilian rainforest or any other natural area rich in biodiversity, the microbiome reminds us that all living things are interconnected within our biosphere. Animal or plant, we depend on each other, sometimes giving, sometimes taking, forever exchanging with others – sometimes in healthy ways, sometimes not.
We know, for example, that if our microbiome is to support our health and well-being, we need to eat real food – especially plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, and other plants. If we feed too much on fast food and other ultraprocessed products, our microbiome becomes less diverse, making us more vulnerable to disease. As the authors of one paper on possibilities for increasing microbial diversity put it,
This phenomenon is similar to the process of ecosystem impoverishment in macro ecology where human activity decreases ecological niches, the size of predator populations, and finally the biodiversity. Such pauperization is fundamental since it reverses the evolution processes, drives life backward into diminished complexity, stability, and adaptability.
Of course, this is the path our consumerist society has been on since at least the onset of the Industrial Revolution, leading us to our current climate crisis. One key to reversing course so Earth can heal is to restore our connection to the natural world and honor our dependence on it. This also entails our dependence on each other.
While it’s sometimes tempting to see human beings as the villains in the great drama of life on Earth, it’s vital (empowering, even) to recognize that villains can have a change of heart and become the heroes we need.
Supporting Diversity Is Key
With billions of species that continually interact to create the beautiful world we have been blessed with, our role in supporting diversity is key. It’s the foundation of Yoga Calm Earth Warriors, which – through hands-on, embodied learning – shows how humans are a part of nature, not separate, and how we can nurture and support it, not just from our own self-interest but because we love it.
And this comes from supporting our own diversity, as well – our diverse cultures, ethnicities, and traditions; experiences and knowledge and talents.
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Yoga Calm was born from this same impulse. Developed in a special education classroom and refined in a variety of elementary school counseling groups, its overarching goal was to help children discover and develop their unique gifts with the support of their community. Social/emotional awareness and, ultimately, the ability to work harmoniously together is at the heart of the program.
We recall when Lynea’s school did a talent show and some of these students awed their peers and teachers alike with their yoga skills. It was so much more than just a physical demonstration of poses.
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It showed everyone their ability to focus. It showed their ability to lead and respond to each other. It showed their unique gifts.
By the time they were done, their fellow students and teachers saw and understood them in a completely new light.
One of Countless Partners
These ways of understanding our interconnection and ability to communicate and work with each other is on display on the world stage right now, as dozens of countries – along with intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, and companies – have come together to support Ukraine in a wide variety of ways.
It’s not just about stopping a bully. There’s also the growing consciousness that what happens in Ukraine – with refugees, with the world economy, and so on – affects us all.
Just like our microbiome.
To be “really human” is to understand that we aren’t just a species at the top of the food chain. We’re one of countless partners in the circle dance of life.
Learn more about our Earth Warriors curriculum and ways of implementing it at our April 9 workshop, in-person at our SW Portland yoga studio and gardens. You’ll find complete course info and a registration link here.