During two of the most intense months we’ve had in YOMI; organizing a retreat, finishing and filming two new programs and offering a YOMI class and lecture at Yoga Games Malmö, we decided to spend some extra focus on the subject of sustainability.
Sustainability lies close both to my heart and my fears, as we live in the midst of a climate crisis that’s creeping closer upon us which each day that our greenhouse gas emissions keep increasing.
As I’ve for the past four years worked more and more with climate psychology it’s also become apparent how the issue of sustainability relates to all levels that we live and act on: from the practice on our mats to the entire planet.
Let me explain:
Sustainability is about carrying out actions whose consequences won’t do us or others harm either now or in the future: on the mat having a safe practice, adapting to our own current conditions. In our lives meeting the needs we have, adapting to however they’re changing. On the planet ensuring that our lust for things now won’t do the planet harm later on.
Truth be told, we’re not there yet. Neither in regards to how we’re treating the earth, but in all honesty a lot of the times nor in regards to how we’re treating ourselves on and off our mats.
In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali outlines the core of the yoga practice, including the eight limbs of yoga where Yama (abstinence) is the first one. In this limb ahimsa, non-violence, is an important aspect. Putting this in relation to the current state of climate disaster it’s called upon us to reflect on how we as yoga practitioners treat this first limb of yoga. Is the current yogic lifestyle compatible with not doing the earth harm? With not doing ourselves harm?
As for our own lives, there seems to be something in the system we’re living in that’s creating an unsustainability in the way we live. We know that psychological distress is on the rise, as are the sick leave numbers. All of this in spite of economic growth increasing alongside emissions. It’s like we’re making ourselves sick at the same pace as we’re making the planet sick.
Is it then possible to create a sustainable world where we still are able to lead good lives? Trusting what we know about what people need to be healthy and happy the short answer is yes.
The tricky part about this is that we at this point don’t know the exact consequences of the climate threat, as we don’t know how the world will choose to act in the coming years. All we know is that the less we act now, perhaps in favor of our short-term pleasures, the graver the consequences will be for us long-term.
That said, we do know from years of research that what makes people happy, what makes people thrive and live well is not connected to living a fossil fuel intensive life. What seems most important for our happiness is good, social relationships. Physical activity, recreation, a meaningful job, helping others and being in nature are other things that seem important for our sense of happiness.
In light of all of this, I would like to believe that by creating a practice for ourselves that is sustainable for our bodies and minds, we can expand that knowledge into creating actions that help ensure the sustainability of the entire earth.