Women in Leadership : Lindsay Seligman on Sustainability & Yoga Off the Mat

Sierra Vandervort // June 30, 2021

Women in leadership are here to change the world.

At The Local Mystic, we prioritize the celebration & support of women. We KNOW that we’re stronger together, and that we’re here to learn and grow together. Our Women in Leadership series is a collection of interviews with women who are leaders in their field. These are women who share their divine truth through creativity, leadership & perserverance. Today, I’m sharing my interview with Lindsay Seligman. 

Lindsay is the founder of Öko Living, a yoga mat company that creates handwoven, organic-cotton yoga rugs dyed with ayurvedic medicinal herbs and flowers. Her mats boost yogis’ health and wellness while supporting artisans in India. 

We talk about sustainability, regenerative design and how to take your yoga practice off of the mat.

Women in Leadership

Lindsay  Seligman || Founder of Öko Living

women in leadership

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to the practice of yoga & spirituality

Yoga really gave me my life back. I was introduced to yoga in 2004. I had a severe anxiety disorder that made it hard for me to take trips or even leave my room sometimes. Yoga was the one thing that helped keep my body balanced. Through yoga, I discovered how potent my breath was in regulating anxiety in the body. I realized that my panic attacks were largely triggered by shallow, quick breaths. Any yogi knows this awakens the sympathetic nervous system – leading to anxiety and panic – while slow, deep breaths stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to relax the body. I couldn’t believe how powerful just your breath can be.

Learning this was key in healing my anxiety disorder for good when traditional doctors really failed to help at the time. Luckily so much more is known now about the importance of breath and the gut-brain connection in mental health. Yoga is a fundamental practice to really 

understand our mind-body connection for true mental and physical health which is missing in most western medicine.

What inspired you to start your company, Oko Living?

On a year-long trip to South America, I was introduced to yoga in a whole new way with mantras & ceremonies that opened my mind to a new way of thinking. Traveling there led me to be much more connected to the earth. I learned from the locals, indigenous and other travelers how to paint with earth pigment, create earthen pottery and natural papers from plant fibers, farm biodynamically, build earthen homes, and make medicines and dye with plants. I also saw how a lot of this knowledge was disappearing. The elders would talk about how American companies would interfere in various ways ruining the longevity of the soils and permaculture farms they had for generations. How their children growing up with technology were no longer interested in learning the craft and plant knowledge their parents knew. That for many this would be the last generation who held this knowledge and way of life. This connection with living close to the earth is very healing, and I could see how important it is to preserve these types of ancient knowledge and natural craft. I had heard this was a pattern all over the planet but seeing it firsthand made it real.

Back in the states, I struggled to find a meaningful way to live close to the earth as I had there. I worked for other conscious companies doing branding but I always felt like there was more I could create. Through research, I had learned about an ancient ayurvedic tradition of dying that used medicinal plants to create “wellness fabrics” that promote health. I was very intrigued and after a year of research, I went to India to find out more. It felt like things perfectly aligned to help me find these artisans across India and hear their stories. I found a similar history where the ancient knowledge of ayurvedic and natural dyeing almost died out and is now only held by a small group of people. The weavers are also government-funded to help create work and keep the traditional knowledge alive. I was so inspired by this ayurvedic philosophy of using medicinal plants to make everyday items like fabric actually health boosting. It only made sense to find ways to let more benefit from it and help preserve it. The artisans had already been using it for yoga products and I knew the yogi community would truly appreciate them. Everything about the ayurvedic dyed yoga mats connects to my core values as a person which makes it a very fulfilling business to run.

At first, I was not sure if people would reconsider trying traditional yoga rugs because even though they had been used for hundreds of years, they have mostly been forgotten since the invention of plastic mats in the ’80s. I have been so happy to see that people really cherish the beauty of these handmade yoga rugs. They are of a quality and craftsmanship that is almost impossible to come by nowadays and in my opinion, are a far superior surface to practice on than toxic PVC mats. The mats also support ancient plant knowledge and Indian artisans so I know people feel connected to something really special when they practice on one.

You describe Oko mats as “regenerative” in design. Can you talk a bit more about that?

I love this concept of regenerative design. One good example you may know is called “living buildings” which are designed to go beyond just net-zero and actually improve the environment around them and people who live in them. They do this by creating more solar energy than they use, gather local resources like rainwater, clean the rivers nearby and build up the ecosystem through various means like cultivating proper plants. For the people that live in them they connect occupants to light, air, food, nature, and community. I think that almost everything in our world could be designed this way to improve the environment and our health. It’s in our true nature to live this way.

The ayurvedic method of dying our mats is the same philosophy. The methods used are 100% natural and gentle to the environment, keeping water clean, and nurturing the gardens with the leftover plant fibres.

Oko Living

Twenty medicinal herbs chosen by an Ayurvedic Dr., are infused into the fabrics so that your skin is in contact with wellness-boosting plants. Our skin is our largest organ and absorbs most of what it touches. Unfortunately, many man-made items have some level of toxins especially our textiles and clothing, and even our yoga mats. Fabric dyes have over 8,000 unregulated chemicals including known carcinogens like formaldehyde. Dyes are also the # 2 water pollutant on the planet after agriculture! Instead of constantly challenging our immune systems to filter out all these toxins, what if the design boosted our immunity. Perhaps we’d see a drop in autoimmune diseases and cancers. Perhaps our environment and climate change could be very different too when we remove toxic materials and even replace them with nutrients. This was another reason I wanted to share these mats, to inspire a shift in the way we design our lives. The idea of wellness-promoting fabrics at first sounds totally crazy or complicated but it doesn’t have to be. What else can you invent, adopt or shift in your life when you keep regenerative design in mind?

It is also important for us to understand regenerative design is not new and for many cultures is not a separate “concept” but rather their natural way of being. It is as old as time. The forest is naturally regenerative, it is where we come from and where we now need to go. It is the only path to grasp our chance to enjoy this paradise mother nature has given us. It’s all right there waiting for us to awaken and remember.

 

Your brand is very active in the work of yoga off of the mat (seva, sustainability, etc.) What tips do you have for yogis also looking to expand their yoga practice in this way?

I would encourage yogis to just keep learning, research their gear and ask questions. When shopping ask these questions.

  1. Is it functional and do I like it?
  2. What is it made from? Is it non-toxic or ergonomic and healthy for me?
  3. How is it made? How might it impact the environment?
  4. What happens to it when I am done with it?
  5. Is it ethically made, who makes it?
  6. What is the company’s philosophy/ goals?

It’s hard to be perfect so just make small changes when you can. Proper clothing made of natural materials like cotton, hemp, rayon, or bamboo will help yogis sweat and expel toxins through the skin (we all expel about 2 lbs of toxic waste through our skin daily!). Most yoga clothing is made of synthetic plastic-like polyester and nylon which restricts sweating and keeps the toxic load in your body. Look out for hip marketing terms like ” moisture wicking” because usually, that means nasty chemicals are used. Natural fabrics also biodegrade and don’t contribute to microplastics in the ocean like synthetic materials.

And don’t forget the dyes! Look for GOTS certified dyes or Oeko-Tex® dyes which are low impact (azo-free, nontoxic and they use less water) or of course plant dyes if possible.
Same with yoga mats, when shopping for a new one check out what is made from. Stay away from PVC which is not biodegradable and one of the most toxic plastics that off-gasses in your home. PVC is also very toxic to the environment during manufacturing and disposal.

Being minimal with your gear and wardrobe can help. Buy items with integrity that last and take care of them.

Also, relax and have fun, you don’t have to run and change everything all at once. Change takes time so relax, keep your mind open to trying new materials, gear, and habits and slowly make smart shifts.

What three ritual / self-care products are you currently loving?

So many – how to choose!
Exfoliating glove – I used it in the shower to scrub off dead skin cells, smooth skin, and detox.

Everything cotton or natural fabrics – for clothing and sheets to let my skin breath and detox

Headway app – which summarizes all the books you have been meaning to read- so great for speed learning and self-improvement

How can The Local Mystic community be of service to you and Oko Living today?

I am super grateful for you taking interest in just asking me these questions, being curious and sharing. I’d love to know how I can be of service more to you really! It seems like you know a lot about the yoga community and writing. I’d love to get my story out there more to help inspire others.

written by

Sierra Vandervort

Hey there 👋 I’m Sierra – welcome to my website!

I’m a writer, mindfulness coach, and community builder located in the here and now.

I’m here to help you connect to something bigger, find your tribe & live in total abundance!

Check out my Mystic Members’ Club for yoga, meditation & wellness workshops!

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