Climate Change is Every Yogi’s Business 

All the talk about the climate crisis our world is experiencing can cause anxiety and despondent feelings in humans.  Unfortunately, some people have experienced the stresses of climate change directly. 

The ancient teachings and practices of yoga naturally guide you towards a life aligned with nature.  In some ways, the more aligned with nature, the more distressing your response to the climate crisis can be.  However, when you view the world through a yogic lens you are able to expand your awareness beyond self to encompass nature and the environment.  In yoga you find natural equanimity and emotional balance through the three gunas. 

On its own, and out of balance, rajas can be angry and disruptive.  In balance, rajas supports taking strong decisive action and the ability to problem-solve.  Out-of-balance tamas is inert inaction.  In balance allows space for stillness.  Above all, sattva naturally steers us towards correct and right action.  Sattva represents clarity, discernment, calmness and harmony.  Cultivating sattvic balance through your practice allows you to see ‘all’ as ‘one.’

Feeling anxious or distressed is normal, and not a sign of weakness.  What you have at your disposal is the ability to explore your feelings and emotions.  Your yoga practice gives you a unique perspective to adapt and cope, building greater emotional resilience.

Yoga teaches harmony as it relates to self, society and nature.  Importantly, you have access to teachings that cultivate a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of humans with the environment. 

Yoga Australia’s response to the climate crisis

As the peak body for yoga in Australia, Yoga Australia is committed to being an organisation with a strong environmental consciousness.

The teachings of advaita vedanta propose a unique approach to the apparent external world.  A non-dual approach encourages us to consider that world perceived within the mind and the world perceived outside as mirrors of one another.  Thus, climate change is a challenge innate to ourselves, and it behoves us to contemplate how we might resolve it on as many levels as are available.

Yoga Australia has a long history of supporting scientific research studies and we are thrilled to share this recent achievement of our members.

What does the research say:  Yoga and climate change

In their research paper ‘Coping and Adapting to Climate Change in Australia: Yoga Perspectives’ the authors[1] explain how long-term yoga practitioners are coping with the climate crisis. 

Published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy the evidence of yoga’s role in the climate crisis is made clear.  Applying a qualitative methodology, the authors explored the lived experience of the climate crisis by interviewing 11 long-term yoga practitioners. 

These 11 participants reported that their deep understanding of yoga practice and philosophy naturally supported the opportunity to explore their feelings.  It allowed them to give rise to varied and mixed emotions surrounding climate change events, and create space to acknowledge these feelings.  Although they found it challenging, they were able to find meaning, strength and clarity because of their practice. 

The importance of ‘living’ yoga rather than simply ‘doing’ yoga gave the participants the deep understanding that all life is inter-connected.  The participants saw yoga as not only life-changing, but life-saving when it came to coping with the stressors of climate change: 

  • When faced with threat to life, they found purpose and meaning  
  • In the face of disconnection, they found connection on multiple levels  
  • From constriction came expansion 
  • From confusion arose great clarity. 

By taking yoga off the mat, and making it a part of who they are and how they live, the participants have capacity to explore these stressors beyond themselves.  They were able to see the bigger picture, exploring teachings from the ancient past to prepare for the uncertainty of the future.  Being able to draw from yoga lineages, past generations, and their personal practice, culminated in present moment awareness.  This awareness allowed them to see the bigger picture and draw on their inner strength and knowledge. 

One participant noted that through yoga they were able to adapt for future events through preparation, mitigation and adaptation.   This awareness of self and beyond-self offered an enlightened perceptive on their environmental choices: 

  • Choice of diet 
  • Care for all living beings 
  • Preparedness, being evacuation-ready 
  • Speaking up through activism and voting
  • Planting trees 
  • Engaging in sustainable practices, and
  • Investing in renewables.  

These are steps that you can take to enhance your ability to cope with climate change. 

Climate change related mental health 

The researchers take time to examine the link between polyvagal theory (PVT) and climate change related mental health.  PVT advises that safety and connection are default settings for the human system.   

Mind-body practices, such as yoga therapy and talk therapy, support mental health.  These practices alleviate climate change distress, improve emotional regulation, and naturally draw people towards social engagement and connection.  

Past research highlights pranayama as an intervention relieving psychological distress after natural disasters.  The current research clearly points to “yoga’s inherent mindfulness” as the number one skill set to help deal with the intense emotions associated with climate change stress.   

Yoga philosophy to the rescue 

For the yoga practitioner adapting to climate change stems from cultivating self-awareness.  Once you are able to modify your daily practice to suit your changing needs, you can extend this awareness further afield.   

Apply this awareness to enhance your peace of mind, your attitudes and relationships.  Cultivating this level of awareness comes from exploring the Eight Limbs of Yoga on and off the mat.  Asana practice on its own will only limit the ability to become aware.  

Yoga philosophy offers practitioners a unique opportunity to cope as they adapt to the climate crisis.  This is evidenced by the research participants’ lived experiences of applying yoga philosophy as a way to adapt and cope with climate change: 

  • Yamas (ethical restraints) and Niyamas (observances). Both guide one toward the concept of truth and faith for a life well-lived
  • Breath awareness; ujjayi (victorious), sitali (cooling during heatwaves), bhastrika (heating during cold snaps)
  • Asana (sun salutations)
  • Pratyahara – withdraw from the external, focus inward, allow yourself to become completely absorbed in, and on, the moment (brahmari breath)
  • Dharana – focused attention and concentration on something else (tratak, mantra, chanting, drishti). This improves mental strength and clarity, easing mental anguish
  • Dyhana – meditation, mindfulness, affirmations, embodied visualisation (bhavana), intention setting (sankalpa), and yoga nidra to cultivate gratitude and compassion
  • Samadhi – to be able to ‘see’ the life in front of you without judgement or attachment, to ‘be’ in every moment.

Recommendations for future research 

The researchers recommend the following as important topics in yoga’s relationship with climate change: 

  • Yoga studios and yoga therapy clinics provide a community-based network for climate vulnerable communities (based on geographic location) 
  • Research into polyvagal-based interventions targeting marginalised or displaced people 
  • Yoga’s role in guiding people towards a mindset shift, nurturing capabilities to adapt and cope with change 
  • Examining how in-school yoga programs and nature care projects support mental health in children 


The final teaching of yoga is delivered via the disarming paradox, known as acintyabhedabheda, the inconceivable co-existence of both one-ness and difference, and it promotes (at times unnervingly) clear awareness of your surrounding environment.  Yoga allows you to appreciate all that nature offers, the delicate balance of eco-systems, and the impact of the changing climate.  Importantly mindful awareness creates the deep understanding that all life is interconnected.  

Yoga gifts you with incredible tools.  It creates space to develop not only physical strength and flexibility, but mental strength, flexibility, endurance and courage.  All of these characteristics must ultimately be cultivated in the apparent external world.  Yoga teaches self-care, self-awareness, and community and environmental stewardship.  Importantly, yoga helps you adapt and cope with the many variables intrinsic to climate change in Australia and across our Earth.  

By the Yoga Australia team


[1] David, T., Buchan, J., & Nalau, J. (2022). Coping and Adapting to Climate Change in Australia: Yoga Perspectives. International journal of yoga therapy32(2022), Article 15.