Yoga and Climate Change: The Path to Awakened Consciousness

Explore the profound interconnection between yoga practices and our relationship with nature during climate challenges.

Amidst the urgent call of climate change, the ancient teachings of yoga offer a beacon of light, guiding us towards a harmonious relationship with our environment.

Walking is a life- and sanity-saving daily practice that has supported my overall well-being during these times of challenge. I walk somewhere in nature every day if I can. Even if that walk is just around the neighborhood, appreciating suburban gardens and trees lined up like witnesses testifying to the seasons and changes in the climate, that is enough.



Understanding Life's Cosmic Neighborhood

Beautiful bright days, refreshing crisp air, trills of songbirds, or caws of crows nurtured my body, mind, and soul. While being sustained by nature, I am aware of the reciprocity that underlies all of life, including climate change stressors. We are fortunate to live in a time where the ecstatic testimonies of the mystics converge with the insights of science and systems theory to verify that there is no boundary between the environment and us—no separation between or “our” neighborhood and other parts of the world.

Just as body, mind, and soul are intricately intertwined, so it is with body, mind, soul, and nature. All of it—everyone and every form of life—is our neighborhood. Only one cosmic neighborhood—that is a fundamental principle of yoga. All of life is one, and we are That. One Supreme Consciousness expresses as all that is.

A close up of green leaves on a tree representing a wholistic path of kriya yoga and its benefits

"The One Life expresses as all variations of life throughout the universe, from Godhead to the physical worlds. One Being is the beingness, the inner reality, of all life units and life forms. One Power expresses as all variations of force and energy in creation. One Substance manifests as all aspects of nature and as all forms in nature."

—Roy Eugene Davis [1]

Yoga's Answer to Climate Change

Vedic wisdom declares: take care of nature, and nature will take care of you.

How do we take care of nature in a time of climate emergency? The very thought of it can feel overwhelming. We feel unmoored and defeated before we even begin.

Yet, we can learn what is needed to break through the seemingly intractable heaviness of despair from the yoga tradition.

What is it?

It’s an action step inspired by soul wisdom.

The four main branches of yoga offer us a brilliant foundation for taking restorative, reciprocal steps.

Simple, small steps.

With steps that begin to change the climate of our heart and our mind—yoga, consciousness, and climate change meet.

a guy  sitting in kriya yoga meditation reaping benefits

The Four Pillars of Yoga Practice

To restore our dharmic (right, supportive, reciprocal) relationship with nature, what is needed is soul restoration and awakening of our interconnection to the cosmos and one another. By soul restoration, I mean restoring our conscious connection to the Self as indwelling unchanging Supreme Consciousness and as the creative emanation of that Reality as the body, mind, and cosmos.

Yoga practice that supports individual well-being by connecting us to the Divine Self can provide profound insight and deep healing with our connection to nature. Consider:

  • Jnana Yoga—the way of wisdom and discernment;
  • Bhakti Yoga—the method of worship, love, and devotion;
  • Raja Yoga—the path of mystical insight and experience; and
  • Karma Yoga—selfless service in action.

The purpose of all four yogic pillars is to free us from the false impression of being a separate self and help us awaken to our inherent oneness.


Let’s consider the first step we can take for a yoga, consciousness, and climate change practice.

Taking the First Step: Embracing the Five Elements of Nature

We can begin with a wisdom step by drawing from the scriptures, science, and our own experience to recognize our seamless interdependence with all of life.

The Samkhya philosophy that informs practices in the yoga tradition offers us a cosmology map showing how everything in nature is composed of the same five basic elements. My body, your body, the ocean, trees, and the device you are reading this on are all made up of a dance of the five elements of nature:

Look around and begin to identify each element.

a lotus raising above the water representing spiritual awakening

For example, when we look at a tree, we can recognize earth in its trunk and branches, water in its sap and circulatory system, fire in the leaves with photosynthesis, air with its in-breath of carbon dioxide and out-breath of oxygen, and space in its architecture.

Now, turn your view around and see the same in your own body and mind. Can you see that your body and mind are composed of the same elements? Do you recognize that you and the tree are breathing together?

With that first step of exploring oneness through the elements, it’s my experience that other yoga practices effortlessly follow. We naturally develop a worshipful attitude of love and respect that blooms in the heart and leads us to care for our now recognized larger body. We can move even deeper into a mystical experience of oneness with it. When we do experience insight, reverence, and oneness, the strength, inspiration, and discernment we need for dharmic action naturally arises from within us. We are restored to our wholeness.

From the mud of despair, a bright lotus of awakened consciousness blooms with hope.

[1] Roy Eugene Davis, Our Awakening World (CSA Press: Lakemont, 1987), p. 37.

Vedic wisdom declares: Take care of nature, and nature will take care of you. How do we take care of nature in a time of climate emergency? Yogacharya O’Brian outlines steps that begin to change the climate of our heart and mind, so yoga, consciousness, and climate change meet.


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