Ahead of our next 300 Hour Advanced Teacher Training, we’re catching up with some of our previous graduates to hear how completing the training has advanced their careers, deepened their practices, and led their lives in new directions. As part of their training, each student completes a research project on a subject of interest relating to yoga. Here, 300 Hour Graduate Danica Kempinski talks with writer Alaina Isbouts about her yoga practice and her focus on sustainability.

Tell me how yoga came to be such an important part of your life.

I originally attended my first yoga class for the physical aspect, but it was something deeper that kept me coming back. I walked into The River one day, for the first time, and they announced that teacher training was starting that night and it wasn’t too late to sign up. Five hundred hours of training later, here I am, still wanting to learn more and with a practice that is as strong as ever. Yoga and training provided me with so much more than I ever thought it would. It helped give me the courage and confidence to leave a career path I wasn’t happy with to pursue my passions and live a life I love, every day.

How did the idea of focusing on sustainability in the yoga industry come to you?

My three passions are yoga, crafting, and fashion. I wanted to do something that I knew I would love and would want to spend a lot of time diving into, but also something I could continue to pursue after training. The yoga industry is a billion-dollar industry, with a large chunk of that being the purchasing of material items, like what we wear to class or the mats we practice on, which can be wasteful and disposable. There is this idea in our culture that the brands we wear define us, and we must have the hot new prop even when our old one works just fine, which strays so far from the foundations of the yogic principles and practice. I decided to merge my love of getting crafty with yoga, and dive into how to weave the ancient practice and principals of yoga in today’s culture, focusing on sustainability, and asked the question of, “Are the roots of Yoga sustainable in a Culture of Consumerism?” I made yoga blocks out of recycled cardboard boxes, eye pillows from scrap fabric, and mat bags from old pants and belts. My goal was to show others how easily we could weave together two totally different worlds and, perhaps also preserve the practice and the planet.

With the holiday season upon us, how do you recommend people remember the importance of sustainability?

One of the hardest times of year to practice sustainability is the holiday season, but it is also one of the best times to remember the Yamas and the Niyamas to build more sustainable practices. Recognizing the need for sustainability in our culture will allow us to let go of the idea that consuming material things, and gifting them, equals success and happiness. We can practice aparigraha, which is to be free from hoarding and the desire to stockpile wealth. In line with this, if you must purchase something, why not chose an experience over material gifts? Not only do you get to spend quality time with your loved ones, but also make lasting memories.

I tend to make 95% of gifts that I give which I find very fulfilling. I love to get crafty and enjoy the process of making things, and people tend to appreciate the gifts more when they know they have come from your heart and hands. There are so many easy DIY projects that are useful to the person you are giving them to, and can use things you may already have. One year I made all the ladies in my family a mala, a few years ago I made scarves with recycled fabric, and this year I’m going to make personalized zipper bags for toiletries from scrap fabric!

What steps do you recommend people take to incorporate sustainability into their yoga practice?

  1. Be being mindful of what we consume and how much we consume of it. By practicing svadhyaya, or self-study, and simply recognizing and acknowledging our current practices, we can rewrite harmful practices we may currently be stuck in.
  2. Research the companies you purchase from, and ensure they have environmentally-friendly practices in place.
  3. Ask yourself if you really need whatever it is you’re considering purchasing. Practicing santosa, contentment, is to be happy with what you have.
  4. Be true to your purpose. Practice satya. As yogis, we can lead by example and live a life of truthfulness and live true to our purpose; to help others and make the world a better place and while treading lightly doing so.
  5. Lastly, conserve energy. I am not talking only to the physical conservation of energy like turning off the lights as you leave, walking instead of driving to practice, reusing water bottles, recycling, etc. I’m also talking to the conservation of our personal energy. To not only to have a sustainable physical practice, but to also have energy to focus on our efforts, we must be mindful of how we use energy and allow ourselves time to rest and rejuvenate when needed. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of the world!

What made you specifically pick The River?

Honestly, I think the River chose me. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed and seen. The River is a place where you are encouraged to be 100% uniquely you, and are loved for all of it. Becoming a part of the team here has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined.

What do you think it means to be a yoga teacher in your community?

To be a teacher is to also be a student, a friend, a good listener, and a selfless servant. Being a teacher has taught me so much about the necessity of a connection with myself, a connection with other humans, and a connection to your world and community. I also think a large part of being a teacher is leading by example: caring and giving back to your community, showing self-love, and valuing each and every human as a unique, equal body, and realizing that we are all in it together.

For more information on The River’s upcoming Advanced 300 Hour Training beginning February 28th, visit us here.