yoga off the mat

Giving Back by Picking Up

“On a scale of one to Ralph Nader,” I asked as I stealthily removed my camping fork from my purse, “how weird is it that I bring my own silverware to restaurants?”

My husband considered me carefully, “I think it’s about a four.”

“I’d say higher.” My daughter said. “And who’s Ralph Nader?”

I didn’t ask why she would think it was higher if she didn’t even know who Ralph Nader was.

I have become acutely aware of the plastic forks and knives that I use once and then throw away, the straws, the lids, the wrappers, because as a project this spring I have started picking up a lot of that trash on my walks at the Sculpture Park. It is one thing to pull out an aluminum knife to cut my spinach pizza slice into more manageable pieces, but it is one step further to deal with some of the trash that’s already out there.

For my 200-hour yoga teacher training, I needed to choose a project that would give back to my community. I wanted to choose something I wasn’t already doing, and honestly, something that took me out of my comfort zone.

I walk regularly at Loveland’s sculpture park, which is part of a chain of ponds and wetlands that are strung like beads through town and then out onto the plains. There are always a lot of walkers and art lovers and Pokémon hunters. There’s also a lot of trash. So, I have decided to give back to my community by picking up after them. Walking around with a trash bag isn’t usually the look I’m going for. I feel exposed every time I step into the muck of the wetland to grab a McDonald’s wrapper trapped in the cattails. It’s awkward.

The trees and bushes in the park act as a wind trap, so plastic bags and paper blow in from the neighborhood. I find aluminum cans as well, which might be dropped there- it seems unlikely that they would be blowing in on the wind. I try to find forgiveness for my fellow humans who leave the cans where they drop them, instead of recycling them. It’s a stretch.

I try to treat it as moving meditation, looking at the ground off the path, softening my focus so that I can notice material in my peripheral vision, then pick it up. It forces me to slow down, and be aware of my surroundings, rather than thinking about the million other things that are usually running through my mind when I walk. Stepping out of my comfort zone this way strengthens me; it takes my yoga off the mat.

“So on a scale of one to Ralph Nader, how weird is it to walk around with a trash bag?” I asked my daughter. I have since filled her in on Mr. Nader’s place in U.S. History.

“Probably a five.”

Five. Ok. I can live with that.


My half-full trash bag after a loop around the park.

I wrote this post as a reflection on my Seva Project for my 200 hour yoga teacher certification with Holistic Yoga School in Fort Collins Colorado. If you are interested in diving deeper into your yoga practice, the Community of HYS is a beautiful place to start.

Holistic Yoga School


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