Extreme Weather & Ayurveda

Apr 9, 2016

I don’t know about you, but the winter weather this year in the northeastern United States (and all over the world, for that matter) has had me completely baffled. Now it’s spring, and even more crazy fluctuations are seen daily.*

When I asked Siri the other day “What is the weather like today?” the reply came,

“Hmmmm it’s not looking good today…(insert temperature ranges), then:

“It looks like a mixed bag tomorrow through April 17th, 2016”….

The voice inside my head literally said “Say WHAAAATTTTTT???”

Siri saying the weather ahead looks like a “mixed bag” for the next couple of weeks basically sums up the strangeness of the seasonal weather patterns this year. Not to mention the increase in the very observable, extreme and unpredictable nature of, well, Mother Nature, for the past 10+ years.

At minimum, all I’m doing is trying to figure how to dress. I can’t even imagine how the birds, bees and rest of nature must be feeling! In fact, how the birds and the bees respond to daily extremes that transform broader strokes of our global weather patterns is a much more grave concern. Scientists have documented the extreme fluctuations on daily weather patterns, and speculate that daily extremes make it extremely burdensome for plants, insects and animals to adapt to environmental changes. If the plants & insects cannot adapt, there is no time to evolve to the larger fluctuations they live in, and, well, extinction happens.

In typical fashion, my mind began ruminating about the weather pattern changes and their affects from the viewpoint of yoga and Ayurveda: What is our best course of action for individual care (and ultimately global health) in order to maintain health and balance in our lives?

Ayurveda, the sister science to yoga, is one of the oldest medical sciences in the world. A Sanskrit word, one translation is the “science of life”. As a medical science, Ayurveda has continued to evolve with the information and the times, integrating new information and technologies into its rich history and wisdoms of the ages. The yogi’s individual practice of Ayurveda helps each of us gain a deep personal understanding of our constitution, or dosha, so that we can behave in ways that support mental and physical balance in the environs we live in. This balance allows us to live out our purpose with ease.

Everything around has an effect on our make-up or doshas. Yoga and Ayurveda are integrated practices that can facilitate freedom from physical and mental suffering. If we hope to attain yoga, we must have a clear mind. A clear mind cannot come if we are suffering physically. Ayurvedic practices help to prevent and treat illness, and in this way, support our yoga.

Once healthy, we require practices to maintain our physical and mental balance. Here the practice is common sense: Ayurveda takes into account the current seasons, the context of our urban or suburban living, even the people we are around and how all of this might affect our constitution, in bringing us in or out of harmony. Then we adjust our habits and practices to support the myriad of life’s scenarios.

Some of the biggest influences in maintenance of balance in our constitution are the seasonal fluctuations and the foods we eat. For example, we associate summer with pitta (fire, water elements), fall with vata (air, space elements), late winter and early spring with kapha (water, earth). Each season prescribes an associated way of eating that is best for creating balance.

For instance, as we come into fall and feeling dry, cool air setting in, Ayurveda typically recommends eating warm, cooked vegetables. This in contrast to to eating cool, raw, or fresh vegetables and fruits that we would eat in the heat of summer, for pacifying the fire of pitta.

Examples of our complimentary yogic practices include the fall yoga practice becoming more grounding (think: chair pose and standing balance postures to pacify vata); in late winter and early spring, typically our practice supports opening & cleansing (think: backbends, twists).

But if environmental change is creating early fall temperatures in late summer and unseasonable humidity or heat in the winter, should we stick to the Ayurvedic “routine” or adjust to reflect the fluctuations of the environment? The rich history of Ayurveda and its continued evolution with modern times would suggest a little of both. As much as our practice is about the common sense of daily routines that include eating healthy, exercising, being productive in your life’s purpose and also creating time for restoration and relaxation, we do not live in a bubble.

If one reason we practice yoga is to maintain our ability to remain calm amidst the sea of change in the world around us, to maintain ease in order to respond to the situations that we are presented with, then we can adjust our daily practice to reinforce this ease in the fluctuations of the environment around us.

But perhaps the best course of action is to behave and act in ways that will help to prepare both future generations and ourselves for what the plants and animals will not have time to adjust to. Humans tend to mirror the behaviors around them, so even when you think “What will my small actions really do to help?” turn your mind to the idea that all of your actions add up, and furthermore, people around you might be inspired to act in a similar manner.

Try and reduce your carbon imprint:

  • Less driving, (consolidate trips) flying (one less long flight per year), more walking, biking, and public transport
  • Must fly? Pack light! Every extra 10 pounds per travel uses 350 million more gallons of jet fuel per year
  • Waste less food, eat less meat
  • Drink filtered water from your tap – bottled water is expensive, and only about 23% of those plastic bottles get recycled, resulting in about 2 million tons of plastic in landfills PER YEAR
  • Some states allow you to choose your own electricity supplier that supports renewable energy sources like wind or solar
  • Adjust your thermostat; turn off lights where you aren’t using them
  • Speak up and tell your local & state representatives to support alternative energy resources and research into technology and innovations that will change our energy systems!

Maybe these behaviors will ultimately give all beings of our fragile planet a little more time to heal, and to evolve.

What have you experienced in your personal life or yoga practice that has helped you to adjust to the extreme weather fluctuations?

Can you suggest any other tips to help us reduce our individual carbon footprint?

*As I wrote this post, snow accumulation is predicted for the northeast, with temperatures ranging from 20-70 degrees Fahrenheit over the next 10 days.

About Rebecca Soule

Rebecca Cheeks Soule, PhD is a New York City based yoga and meditation teacher with over 20 years of teaching experience. She also leads yoga, adventure and lifestyle retreats worldwide.



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