Climate Change Integrity Through Yoga

Climate Change Integrity Through Yoga

One year ago this month an international panel of scientists convened by the UN released the IPCC report about the actions needed to keep global warming to 1.5ºC (2.7ºF). Greta Thunberg, 15 years old at the time, was a couple of months into her climate strike from school on Fridays. In the year since, the start of a great turning of public awareness has occurred.

Humanity’s collective challenge is turning that growing awareness into effective action. I believe that Yoga can be a powerful tool in that transformation because at it’s heart, Yoga is about integrity, and when our actions are not consistent with what we know needs to be done, we are suffering from lack of integrity.

Yoga means to yoke, unite, bring together, integrate. Through the physical practices of asana and pranayama we bring the state of yoga to our being, a unified experience of body and mind in the flow of the present, which is where all thought, action and experience of our life occurs.

When I think of yoga, I come back time and again to the idea of integrity. Integrity in our body is a healthy, well functioning, coordinated body, which results from the right asana practice for us (the right practice .s unique for each person).

Integrity in our life is when we’re in touch with our deepest values, our actions and their consequences, and our life is lived consistent with our values. One of the most powerful messages that Greta has conveyed is the observation that world leaders talk about climate change, but are not taking the action needed to address it. This disconnect is a symptom of the lack of integrity. Note – I’m not intending this to be judgmental, simply an observation of word and action that are not consistent.

In fact, a majority of people in the U.S. say they understand that global warming is occurring and causing climate change, that humans are the primary cause, and that it is causing serious detrimental impacts that will, if unaddressed, get even worse in the future. Yet so far, few people are living as if they truly believe these things. There is a lack of integrity between the understanding about climate change and the daily living of life.

I don’t say this to criticize. This disconnect between knowledge and action is present in my own life as well. We live in a system that continually pushes us toward actions that contribute to the problem. Finding new ways is often a challenge, like swimming upstream against a strong current. Letting go of self-criticism is vital, because a natural human reaction to negative feelings is to avoid them. The climate crisis needs our positive engagement.

Turn back to the practice of yoga, even the enjoyment of it, and hold space for what you know to be true, for being open to acknowledge your deepest values, and for the vision of how you want to be in the world. If you become aware of a way in which your actions are not consistent with you you want them to be, instead of feeling critical about yourself, celebrate your new awareness. It’s a big step toward being able to make the changes that will bring your life closer to harmony, balance, integrity, Yoga.


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