Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

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Yoga practice saves plant species

It is estimated that worldwide up to 50 per cent of plant species face extinction. That's a significant threat to our planet as every plant performs vital functions that make life on earth possible. 

Enter yoga! - yoga and plant conservation - so how might yoga help to save a threatened plant species? A staff yoga teacher and her students at the Royal Botanic Garden have found a practical way to help save plants from extinction and inspire other conservationists.

The Trust’s role is to inspire the conservation of plants locally, nationally and internationally. Trust graphic designer and yoga teacher Karen Rinkel has been running yoga classes for staff at the Royal Botanic Garden over the past two years. Karen does not accept any monies for her teaching; instead she asks her students to donate what they can afford to the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust’s Save a Species campaign. To date yoga students have given over $2000 to the campaign! - enough to save a species from extinction through banking its seeds in the Australian PlantBank at the Trust’s Australian Botanic Garden at Mount Annan. 

Karen says her involvement in providing yoga courses at work and supporting the Save a Species campaign has been most rewarding. ‘I’ve worked as a graphic designer at the Royal Botanic Garden for over 20 years,’ explains Karen. 'My role allows me to help make connections between plant conservation and engaging our audiences through designing a wide range of visual communications material.'

‘In 2011 I completed four years of part-time yogic studies to qualify as a yoga teacher. Teaching yoga to my colleagues at the Garden has provided me with the opportunity to gain teaching experience and donating to the Save a Species campaign has been the perfect avenue to combine my passion for yoga and plant conservation.

‘The yoga classes have been well supported by staff whose monetary contributions to Save a Species are what makes the campaign work - everybody wins - staff feel the healthful benefits from practicing yoga and we all make a real contribution to conserving threatened plant species.

‘Staff who come to my class learn yoga techniques for relaxation, releasing tensions from the body, how to connect with the breath and breathe more fully. My classes have proved popular for staff across the different disciplines of the organisation: science, education, horticulture and public engagement. They gain benefit in participating in the classes - finding new ways to unwind, to practice with awareness and to feel refreshed after a full day’s work.’

Save a Species is one support arm of the Australian PlantBank - the soon to be opened research facility which stores seeds and plant DNA to prevent the loss of plant species from ecological habitats. The Save a Species campaign encourages individuals to get sponsored for a challenge or activity to raise funds with friends and family towards this vital cause - to walk the talk when it comes to getting involved in plant conservation.

The Australian PlantBank, part of the Millennium Seed Bank project described by Sir David Attenborough as 'perhaps the most important conservation initiative ever', is committed to banking 25 per cent of the seeds of the world’s plant species by 2020. PlantBank is targeting plants most at risk from climate change and human activities to ensure the powerful blueprints contained in plant DNA aren't lost forever.

yoga-class; photo: Shutterstock