Weaving together Eastern and Western philosophies, Tias Little connects his mindful yoga teachings to the depths of the subtle body and the Earth. This month we spoke with Tias about his support for Yogis Unite, and Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary – sharing why he believes yogis must come together in support of “the global body”, for planetary healing.
Parvati Magazine: Your unique approach enables students to embrace a greater level of mindfulness and prajna (deep understanding). How does yoga inform your view of the world?
Tias Little: The work that I do here in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is tied to the land. We built an ecological structure for yoga practice. We really feel like the yoga practices involve awareness for the ecosystem. We do walking meditation and an outdoor sitting practice in the course of our retreat. Our aim is to heighten awareness, not only for the inner body, but the global body, the exterior. Ultimately I think there is not a difference between the inner body and the outer.
Yoga of the subtle body and the environment
Parvati Magazine: Your style of yoga thoughtfully intertwines both Eastern and Western perspectives. Why is this unity of wisdom from around the world important to you? How does Yogis Unite align with this philosophy?
Tias Little: I think yogis have always been connected to the environment. I think that awareness coming from the Vedas, the traditional teachings – coming from the powers of the wind, the rivers, the atmosphere, the ozone … Today, after practicing yoga for over 30 years, I connect more to the “subtle body”. Just this last year, I wrote a book entitled “Yoga of the Subtle Body”. I identify the body as full of “rivers” – rivers of lymph, rivers of blood, rivers of nerves, or clouds in the lungs – I think there are lots of ways to see the interior body, metaphorically, as connected to the Gaiam – to the whole earth.
How yoga connects us with the natural world
Parvati Magazine: Why is the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary an initiative you support? How does yoga inform your attitudes on critical global and environmental issues?
Tias Little: The Prana that we cherish in yoga practice, that we look to strengthen and revitalize, is really supported by the ecosystem that we live in. Over the years I’ve done events with the Great Whale Conservancy – doing events with Yoga and the Big Blue, and taking students out to see the whales. I really feel the more we can connect to the great animals of the planet, and the ecosystem at large, the more it supports Prana. Interestingly, in terms of MAPS, [the god] Shiva is basically in Samadhi on an icefield. And [with] the glacier at the top of the mountains above India, in Nepal, in Tibet, yoga has a referral to how it preserves the wisdom and lifeforce in some of the myths and stories of Shiva. I think if yogis can be more active to support the preservation of the land and the oceans, it will help sustain and continue for years to come. So, we are very much in support of the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary!
Parvati Magazine: It’s interesting that you mention the big blue whale. Parvati was called to the Arctic, and ultimately to found Parvati.org and MAPS, by a recurring dream of a blue whale under the Arctic ice. She cancelled her tour and travelled up to the Arctic and met with elders there, who said “You are the one who’s come to do healing for the Earth. We knew you were coming. The whale told us.”
Tias Little: I do a lot of dreamwork, and there’s such a rich history in the Upanishads about sleep and dreams. I’ve had many dreams of whales – and I think whales are archetypes (along with elephants, and the big animals of the planet); they are the wisdom keepers. Some believe that if the large animals go extinct, then we will lose our connection to our own memory, planetarily and historically.
Embracing our interdependence
Parvati Magazine: Why is it crucial for yogis to use their teachings to empower greater compassion and awareness for our planet?
Tias Little: I think that it’s so important to be able to embody an empathetic awareness for the interdependence of all systems. Whether it’s the rain, or clouds, or mountains, or insects, butterflies—this global awareness is not limited to the body. I think that we must be in service of that with the way we vote and our policy—to preserve the natural habitat. Realizing that all things are interconnected and there is no such thing as an independent entity, or an independent self. So then one’s in service of the whole, not the ME or the I.
Tias Little began studying Iyengar yoga in 1985 and lived in Mysore, India in 1989 studying Ashtanga with Pattabhi Jois. He is a longtime student of the meditative arts and Buddhism. Tias lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where he directs his school, Prajna Yoga, and is the author of three books.