Book: Wild Yoga by Rebecca Wildbear
Sub: A Practice of Initiation, Veneration & Advocacy for the Earth
“We exist in relationship to the Earth, our dreams, and one another,” writes author Rebecca Wildbear in her new book, Wild Yoga: A Practice of Initiation, Veneration & Advocacy for the Earth (New World Library, 2023). The creator of a yoga practice also titled Wild Yoga, Wildbear writes with extensive knowledge of the earth we call home – and our duty to protect it:
“Wild Yoga is an embodied practice to help us love ourselves, deepen our relationship with the natural world, and stretch our consciousness.”
Receiving her E-RYT-500 certification through Yoga Alliance, Wildbear earned her masters at Johns Hopkins University in the 90s before working as a wilderness therapist and guide. She’s been leading her program, Wild Yoga, since 2007, which “empowers individuals to tune in to the mysteries that live within the earth community, dreams, and their own wild nature so they may live a life of creative service.” A survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Wildbear uses stories from her life, as well as her clients’, to document the patterns of the earth and the treatment it deserves.
Drawing from ancient yogic principles, Wildbear writes with unflinching honesty about the importance of being in union with the nature around us. “Once it was like this everywhere: humans lived within nature,” she writes as she portrays a world with humans cut off and disconnected from the very land around them. Wild Yoga mixes interpersonal stories, environmental justice, and history with a plethora of tools to help each person engage with the soil and plants we live among. “Our wellness and our planet home are linked.”
Split into three sections, each chapter of Wild Yoga builds on the previous one, and Wildbear encourages a slow reading, only moving to the next chapter when you feel ready. At the end of every chapter, Wildbear concludes with a yoga pose supporting the chapter’s theme, including pigeon, breath of joy pranayama practice, and cat and dog pose. For clearer understanding, a whimsical illustration drawn by Sarah E. Brooks accompanies each pose. Wildbear also includes a list of practices to help the reader flush out the focus of each chapter, like wandering in nature, befriending a tree, sitting with your grief, and digging into your ancestral history to help connect you with the earth.
The three sections create a flow for Wild Yoga, walking the reader through a journey of discovery. Part 1, ‘The Wild,’ explores how to drop into your body as well as learning how to listen to the natural world around you (receiving the love of trees is a particularly beautiful section). Part 2, ‘Holy Longing,’ encourages the reader to “open up to the mystery of what you love and grieve,” letting the world sing to you (a beautiful imagery that brought me to tears). The third and final part, ‘Beloved World,’ helps the reader learn to listen to their muse and “offer yourself as a love warrior for the Earth.”
The stories Wildbear tells take the reader across the beautiful diversity of land we call home. She writes while in a grove of spruce trees in Colorado high country and in the dry Utah desert, later recalling a childhood trip taking place at a convent in Maryland surrounded by a state park. Wildbear writes about love and loss, describing when her (now ex-) husband proposed to her during a weeklong float in the Gulf of Alaska. The scenery is stunning and busting with life, even as she recounts difficult conversations and sleepless nights under the stars.
Wildbear isn’t afraid to dive headfirst into a plethora of topics, intertwining chapters focused on pornography, inhabiting your imagination, grief, the patriarchy, and forest management. All of it ties back to our involvement with the earth and what keeps us separated from caring for our home: our cultural training to be disembodied. “Yoga asanas,” she writes, “have the power to call us back home. To bring us back into the body and show us that being there is essential.” This practice, she acknowledges, is not always easy, but it is a choice, and one that will ultimately connect us with our deepest self. “When we are fully present in our bodies, the places we inhabit can influence our awareness and communicate with us… We can come to know each ecosystem and ourselves and sense the sacred communion between us.”
A love story to nature and all that makes this living, breathing earth our home, Wild Yoga is a must-read for anyone searching for guidance at the intersection of social justice and the yoga practice.