With parts of the world burning, species and forests being lost, and the polar ice caps melting, it’s easy to become despondent and depressed about the state of the world, with the climate crisis now recognised by many local and national governments, scientists, and internationally, as an emergency.
We might feel that the scale of the problem is so big that individual actions are meaningless, or that someone else (‘those in charge’) are the ones who should be doing something. Or we might feel like we’re the only ones who care and that no one else around is interested. Some people might also feel the problem is so big, complex and covers so many elements that they don’t know where to start making changes.
What’s this got to do with yoga and my blog? Well, recently a local yoga teacher (Kerry Riddell) coordinated a ‘climate conscious yoga’ day gathering where a group of about 15 people got together to share thoughts, theories, yoga practices, meditation, and importantly, action ideas, on yoga and its (our) contribution towards being climate conscious and helping to improve the environment for the future.
The final session involved personal thinking time and then small group discussions on four questions:
- How can I be of service personally?
- How do I bring action for the climate crisis into my yoga practice?
- How can we be of service collectively?
- What can we do together?
As a result of my ponderings, one of my ideas was that I could share information, tips, useful resources etc, on key topics related to climate change via my blog. This theme of sharing and information was suggested by several people so I thought I’d get on with it! Periodically I’ll focus on a topic and share links, tips, possible actions etc that someone might find helpful.
First up are two publications/resources which are broad in scope and are good sources of information on a range of topics: Positive News and the Ethical Consumer. Whilst UK publications, both are available online and internationally – either with reduced content for free access or on a subscription basis, and both have an international outlook. They can be a good place to start as introductions to some of the topics around environmental, ethical and global issues.
I believe that being continuously exposed to negative news 24/7 has a detrimental effect on our mental health and ways of thinking. To counter this I recommend Positive News which, as the name suggests, focuses on the positive things that are going around the world in terms of social, environmental, economic and political change. It’s a heartening read. You can also join as a supporter or subscribe to the print/digital version of the magazine.
The Ethical Consumer, focuses on products and services that people buy (coffee, chocolate, paint, clothes, banks, mobile phones etc) and explores the ethical issues surrounding their creation and the companies behind the labels. They investigate things like conflict minerals, tax evasion, labour rights in clothing factories and pollution, and score the products and companies on a range of topics. Consumers can then make an informed choice about which product or service they wish to support, or boycott, based on their own priorities and concerns. Although the products and services relate to UK availability, the issues are similar across the world, particularly when many brands are ultimately owned by global multinational companies and products are often made on the opposite side of world from where the consumer lives.
But to return to the beginning, the day itself was a combination of asana, meditation and discussion which began with us being introduced to the work of Joanna Macy, particularly ‘active hope’ and ‘the work that reconnects‘.
Three different yoga teaches (Kerry, Caroline and Angela) led practices to ground us and for us to connect with ourselves, based on Macy’s theories and the spiral of four stages (gratitude, honoring our pain for the world, seeing with fresh eyes, and going forth -see image on left). They all did a marvelous job of making the yoga relevant, accessible to everyone in the room and engaging. I particularly liked a couple of the meditation and pranayama practices:
- repeating a mantra in time with the breath: ‘life breathes me (on inhale), the earth receives me (on exhale)’
- Bramari pranayama with different hand positions on the upper body during the practice
This all took place at the quiet oasis of Allanton Peace Sanctuary near Dumfries. Actions from the ‘going forth’ session have already started, with some local yoga teachers creating donation boxes for their classes for carbon offsetting the travel to classes to fund tree planting in Scotland, and and a new Facebook group to support and share ideas within about climate conscious yoga.