Urban planning and the ten principles of yoga

Source: mcritchieushistory.blogspot.com

Source: mcritchieushistory.blogspot.com

My wife and I started practicing flow yoga about 10 months ago. We have found yoga to be very rewarding towards our physical, mental, and spiritual health in our daily lives.

As an urban planner, I believe the ten principles of yoga are extremely useful in my daily life and profession. In fact, many of the principles are complimentary to the ethics we adhere to as certified planners. Below are the ten principles of yoga.

  1. Non-violence (Ahimsa) = No killing other beings. Be meek. Be peaceful.
  2. Truthfulness (Satya) = Live in the truth. Basically, be honest with yourself and others.
  3. Righteousness (Asteya) = Not stealing, not cheating.
  4. Wisdom (Brahmacharia) = Live in the spiritual focus. Do not serve the money but the inner happiness. Be centered in your inner happiness and peace.
  5. Simplicity (Aparigraha) = Be moderate in external enjoyment and consumption. 
  6. Worship of the spiritual goal (Ishvara-Pranidhana)  = Thus we do not lose our spiritual path, it is necessary that we remind ourselves again and again to our spiritual goal.
  7. Sacrifice the ego (Shaucha) = Purification/cleaning. The way into the light passes through the crucifixion of the ego.
  8. Self-discipline (Tapas) = A clear goal, a clear life plan and a clear way of practicing. Tapas means to lead a disciplined life.
  9. Reading (Svadhyaya) = The daily reading (mantra, meditation) keeps us on the spiritual path, cleanses our spirit, connects us with the enlightened masters and makes us to spiritual victors.
  10. Contentment (Santosha) = Satisfied with what one has.”

When you compare these to the principles in the AICP Code of Ethics (below) the similarities are quite striking (my interpretation of the corresponding principles of yoga shown in bold) :

  • “We shall always be conscious of the rights of others. (Truthfulness and Sacrifice the ego)
  • We shall have special concern for the long-range consequences of present actions. (Spiritual goal and Truthfulness)
  • We shall pay special attention to the interrelatedness of decisions. (Wisdom and Self-discipline)
  • We shall provide timely, adequate, clear, and accurate information on planning issues to all affected persons and to governmental decision makers. (Truthfulness)
  • We shall give people the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on the development of plans and programs that may affect them. Participation should be broad enough to include those who lack formal organization or influence. (Sacrifice the ego)
  • We shall seek social justice by working to expand choice and opportunity for all persons, recognizing a special responsibility to plan for the needs of the disadvantaged and to promote racial and economic integration. We shall urge the alteration of policies, institutions, and decisions that oppose such needs. (Non-violence and Righteousness)
  • We shall promote excellence of design and endeavor to conserve and preserve the integrity and heritage of the natural and built environment. (Self-discipline and Reading)
  • We shall deal fairly with all participants in the planning process. Those of us who are public officials or employees shall also deal evenhandedly with all planning process participants. (Truthfulness)
  • We shall exercise independent professional judgment on behalf of our clients and employers. (Truthfulness and Contentment)
  • We shall accept the decisions of our client or employer concerning the objectives and nature of the professional services we perform unless the course of action is illegal or plainly inconsistent with our primary obligation to the public interest. (Truthfulness and Sacrifice the ego)
  • We shall avoid a conflict of interest or even the appearance of a conflict of interest in accepting assignments from clients or employers. (Truthfulness, Simplicity, and Contentment)
  • We shall protect and enhance the integrity of our profession. (Truthfulness and Reading)
  • We shall educate the public about planning issues and their relevance to our everyday lives. (Wisdom and Reading)
  • We shall describe and comment on the work and views of other professionals in a fair and professional manner. (Sacrifice the ego)
  • We shall share the results of experience and research that contribute to the body of planning knowledge. (Wisdom, Spiritual goal, and Reading)
  • We shall examine the applicability of planning theories, methods, research and practice and standards to the facts and analysis of each particular situation and shall not accept the applicability of a customary solution without first establishing its appropriateness to the situation. (Truthfulness, Self-discipline, and Reading)
  • We shall contribute time and resources to the professional development of students, interns, beginning professionals, and other colleagues. (Wisdom, Spiritual goal, Sacrifice the ego, and Reading)
  • We shall increase the opportunities for members of underrepresented groups to become professional planners and help them advance in the profession. (Spiritual goal and Self-discipline)
  • We shall continue to enhance our professional education and training. (Spiritual goal and Reading)
  • We shall systematically and critically analyze ethical issues in the practice of planning. (Spiritual goal and Self-discipline)
  • We shall contribute time and effort to groups lacking in adequate planning resources and to voluntary professional activities.” (Spiritual goal and Self-discipline)

Some may quibble about which yoga principles correspond to which principles of our Code of Ethics. I figure that is largely up to the individual to decide. I have only provided my interpretation as a fledgling practitioner of yoga.

Likewise, some may question how planning has a spiritual goal. If you view “spiritual” strictly in a religious sense, it largely does not. But, if you consider “spiritual” as relating to the human spirit/soul through a set of beliefs and basic tenets (a.k.a. “ethics”) to follow in your profession, then there is a great deal of similarity between them.

Food for thought and discussion. Any feedback and thoughts are most welcome.

Namaste, my friends.

This entry was posted in Advocacy, architecture, cities, civics, civility, Communications, culture, diversity, environment, fitness, health, history, humanity, land use, minimalism, nature, new urbanism, peace, planning, psychology, revitalization, spatial design, sustainability, third places, urban planning, zoning and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Urban planning and the ten principles of yoga

  1. Sarah Bruce says:

    Lovely; thanks for sharing! 🙂


  2. Bradley Flamm says:

    A worthwhile effort to examine the connections between our code of ethics and principles of yoga practice. I imagine most spiritual traditions could be related to our professional work in a similar way. I wonder, Rick, could you explore in more detail how the combination of the spiritual (the principles) and the practice (the physical movements) of yoga, on the one hand, relates to the ethics (the AICP code) and the practice (the professional activities) of planning, on the other?


    • problogic says:

      Thank you, Bradley. I agree with you about comparisons to most spiritual traditions. Your question is an excellent one. I would need some time to ponder (meditate) about how best to describe that comparison, but it would be a teriffic follow-up. Stay tuned…


  3. Jamai says:

    I enjoyed your article/ comparative, especially as I both teach yoga and practice community planning. I had a particularly difficult week and your article has helped return me to a more centred and compassionate place. Namaste


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