ClimateYogi Posts

Offsetting Yoga Travel

I’m driving from Maryland to Massachusetts tomorrow to attend a program on yoga and climate change at Kripalu.  The round trip of about 800 miles will result in about 800 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.  This matters to me because CO2 from burning fossil fuels is the main driver of global warming.  Carbon dioxide is very stable, and once in the atmosphere, can affect the climate for thousands of years or be absorbed into ocean waters and make them more acidic.

Unless you drive an electric vehicle and your electricity is generated by a renewable source like solar or wind, every mile you drive puts more CO2 into the atmosphere.  If you fly to a yoga workshop or a retreat, the CO2 emissions can be significant.

You might be surprised that burning 1 gallon of gas, which weighs about 6.3 pounds, produces almost 20 pounds of CO2.  How is this possible?  Gasoline is made up mainly of hydrogen (which is very light) and carbon.  Carbon is 87% of the weight of the gasoline.  When gasoline burns it combines with oxygen from the air, and the resulting CO2 gas weighs almost 3.7 times as much as the carbon alone.

Clearly the best way to keep CO2 from warming the Earth is to not put it into the atmosphere, so it’s good to carefully consider the need to travel and choose to travel less.  But when you do choose to travel, you can support programs that reduce CO2 emissions that would otherwise occur, or that remove CO2 from the atmosphere.  These are called “carbon offsets.”

Carbon offsets are not very expensive.  It will cost me around $100 in fuel to make the round trip to Kripalu, and the cost of the offsets is only about $4.

As another example, if I flew from Washington D.C. to Cancun, Mexico for a yoga retreat, the cost of carbon offsets would be about $6 for the roundtrip, a tiny amount compared to the cost of the retreat and the travel.

I like the offsets offered by because many of the projects, in addition to helping reduce or mitigate CO2 emissions, are making meaningful changes in peoples’ lives.  As an example, several projects help people obtain more efficient cookstoves, which significantly reduce the amount of fuel consumed and also improve air quality and reduce respiratory diseases.

Paying $50 to offset 4 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, covered all my yoga-related auto travel for 2017 as well as the trip to Kripalu.  It’s a small price to pay to help put the brakes on CO2 emissions and global warming.



See Clearly, Act Well, Do Yoga

Doubt – Fatigue or apathy – The feeling of being stuck, or overwhelmed – Incorrect or incomplete knowledge – Confusion – Loss of motivation.

Perhaps one or more of these is familiar to you in your experience of learning about or taking action on climate change.  These are among the obstacles to seeing clearly found in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, one of the foundational texts of Yoga.

One teaching of Yoga is that we have no choice but to act, and our actions have consequences.  This is simply the reality of how the universe works.  Even when we think we are not taking action, that is also an action, and has consequences.   The very fact of our existence means we are acting and affecting the world around us in some way.

Since we can’t avoid action, it is important that we act well.  What does this mean?  Yoga teacher TKV Desikachar described it as to “never act in a way that we will later regret.”  This requires having a keen understanding of what we are doing and how the world works, so that we understand the likely consequences of our action.

Acting well, therefore, depends on us seeing clearly.  In fact, this clarity is the very definition of Yoga found in the Yoga Sutra.  Patanjali goes on to describe the practice of Yoga, which is intended to reduce the obstacles to our clear seeing, so that we know what we need to do.

When we “do Yoga,” when we breathe and move with intention and awareness, we involve our whole being in our experience.  We learn much more deeply than when we simply read something, or “think about it.”  We uncover deeply held patterns of mind, assumptions, biases, and misperceptions that cloud our vision.  We create the opportunity to see more clearly and make better choices for action.

Practice 1: Breath, Awareness, Connection

In our first practice, we start by establishing our awareness here, where we are, and then deepen awareness of our breath.  Awareness of breath is a central practice of Yoga, and is really the foundation of the physical practice.  We then move on to a meditation on where our breath comes from, deepening our feeling of connection to the world that supports our existence.

A video of the practice can be accessed on Vimeo here: ClimateYogi Practice 1

Here is a script – “[…]” indicates some time for breathing before moving on:

Stand, find your balance over your feet, feel your weight down into your feet.  The practice starts here – awareness of your whole being and where you are.    You are alive, you are here.  

Be here, completely, connected to Earth by the attractive force of gravity, breathing the air around you, aware through your senses of the environment you are in, and of the movement of your breath.  […]

Breathe deeply and evenly, and notice any tendency of the mind to go elsewhere – to be thinking about another place or time.  The first practice is directing attention to your present experience – what is happening right here and right now, moment by moment, breath by breath.  […]

Feel the body expand with the inhale, and contract with the exhale.  […]

Continue to breathe with awareness, and begin to spiral your arms open as you inhale, and fold them back in as you exhale.  Allow the spine to move naturally as you spread your arms and look skyward on inhale, and look back toward the earth as you exhale.  […]

Consider where your breath comes from – the green plants of Earth, from the single-celled phytoplankton in the world’s oceans to the great trees of rainforests – plants that take the carbon dioxide you exhale and release back the oxygen you need to sustain life.[…] 

Your breath out completes the cycle, providing carbon dioxide the plants use to build their structures and to store energy, that the plants, and many animals, use for food.  […]

With each breath, feel a sense of connection and gratitude for the plants that supply the oxygen you are breathing.  […]

At the end of your next exhale, bring your hands back to your side.  Continue the flow of breath, relax into the support of your feet.  […]

Then bring your hands in front, cupped gently.  Look toward your hands, imagining that you are holding a sphere – the Earth itself.  The air you breathe is in a thin layer around the Earth.  Carl Sagan described it as the thickness of a layer of shellac around a schoolroom globe.  That thin layer of atmosphere, you share with all breathing beings.  Your breath truly connects you to the whole world.  […]

Bring your palms together in front of your heart, close your eyes, and lower your chin toward your chest, concluding this practice of awareness, and connection.

*Note to teachers:  Please use any of these practices or imagery.  If you have an opportunity to give acknowledgement to, it would be appreciated.