‘Climate anxiety: Decoded the yogic way’

‘Climate anxiety: Decoded the yogic way’

Working on both, the physical and psychological level, Yoga helps impact our sense of control over our environment.

GUNJAN SINGH

The jitters of often overaware global citizens like myself, are constantly amplified every time we watch the news, read the paper or scroll through our social media. Mentions of an unprecedented heatwave, floods, submerging islands, melting glaciers, and nervousness begins to take hold. If you are relating to the above, the possibility making your heart race, you my friend are not alone.

What you are identifying with is called climate anxiety. A valid psychological concern. The earth is angry and those of us sensitive to our symbiotic association with our planet are panicking.

What is climate anxiety?

An understandable stress response to eco-change, a manifestation of distress brought on by fear of a global and personal doom.

Working on both, the physical and psychological level, it impacts our sense of control over our environment. Leading to panic attacks, breathlessness, insomnia and general anxiety. What we are fearing is the unknown, loss of control and possibly loss of life.

We can help, ourselves … and the earth.

Being a yoga practitioner and instructor, my go to for almost all that ails me, is my yoga mat. In most destabilising times, the yogic philosophy, helps re-centre and empower. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras states that “both the past and future exist in a given moment in the present and how we perceive them depends on our outlook in that very present moment.”

Living in the ‘now’ as practiced in yoga, living each moment, each day with awareness on your present helps gain a sense of control, which eventually leads to management of fear. So today I choose to move forward with the intention of relishing the present. Structuring my today as it is only the ‘now’ that I can be in charge of.

Breaking chronic patterns … the how of the now

Personally, when I am faced with a situation or practice that is a habit but takes away from my experience instead of adding to it, my course of action is to segregate and change perspective. Organising feelings much like our drawers and cupboards helps make sense of them.

Say I have a stomach ache, instead of being overwhelmed by it, I assess it, is it acidity, an infection or an allergic reaction, find the correct cure and begin the healing process. Much like dealing with your anxiety, assess it, be aware, when do these feelings arise and then meditate on how to deal with them. Meditate on what can be done to make our now better. Bring a method to your meditation.

The three ‘A’ method

The three ‘A’ path/method, that of awareness, action and acceptance encompasses the yogic philosophy and in my experience is quite likely to work. Let’s explore each one at atime.

Awareness that of our physical environment, yes! Summer is way warmer than it used to be when we were younger. The planet is in a state of unrest and we don’t have much time to calm the chaos.

At the same time an awareness of how these tangible facts are affecting us, emotionally, mentally, physically, a deeper understanding of the anxiety that possibly debilitates us.

Yoga prompt: meditate on your breathing, eyes closed or open (yogis’ choice) breathe deep and long, maybe to a count, (4 in 4 out), scan your body internally with awareness and assess your emotions and thoughts without fear or judgement.

Action, can we do something to help, our responsibility as citizens of the world, towards our planet. Starting small and going as big as you can. In our house we started with running the taps mindfully, an effort spearheaded by my then 10-year-old daughter, who wanted to ‘leave some water for her children. Run your air conditioners/fans only when required, use traditional methods like yoga, cooling drinks and recipes from grandma’s kitchen, to release body heat, wear organic when you can and the list runs long.

Targeting eco-anxiety with action is an emotionally fulfilling way to ground and stabilise ourselves. Having done something, even a tiny eco-friendly, somatic action, can be emotionally rewarding and anxiety alleviating.

Yogic prompt: Yoga per se is an eco-friendly activity. It brings us closer to our natural organic selves as it apes nature. A repertoire of asanas help ground and collect … physical movements that have positive bearing on our nervous system, bal asana, janu sirshasana, baddha kon asana, to name a few. (Scroll below to find a yoga flow designed to calm anxiety and fear.)

Acceptance, the final path that of acceptance is knowing that you are doing your best genuinely and sincerely towards the betterment of your environment. Beyond what you can do, each day, each month, each year, lies a spectrum of that which cannot be changed. Letting go of the fear of that which cannot be changed, is a huge step towards conquering our grief and fear.

Yoga prompt: Meditate on cultivating mindfulness and humility. Facing our fears humbly reduces their dominance on us. Pranayama, an ancient breathing practice elevates prana (life force),calming, it reduces the heart rate and helps with nervous control.

Once we have assessed our feelings honestly and contributed with responsibility, our path leads us back to appreciating our present. By emotionally empowering ourselves, finding a safe space where we can contribute positively on a personal and social level, we can walk towards embracing a healthier now and a stronger tomorrow.

 

Yoga poses to ground and calm anxiety

          • Sukhasana – Easy pose
          • Dirga Pranayama – Yogic breathing
          • Marjaryasana-Bitilasana – Cat-Cow
          • Uttanasana – Standing forward fold
          • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward facing dog
          • Veerbhadrasana 2 – Warrior 2
          • Malasana – Garland pose
          • Setubandh Asana – Bridge pose
          • Supta Matsyenderasana – Supine spinal twist
          • Baddha Kon Asana – Reclining butterfly
          • Shavasana – Corpse pose

Pranayama

          • Anulom Vilom – Alternate nostril breathing
          • Sheetali – Cooling breath
          • Seetkari – Hissing breath
          • Ujjayi – Psychic breath
          • Bhramari – Humming bee breath

Followed by legs up the wall if desired for up to 10 minutes