It's a few years back. I'm traveling home from Lander, Wyoming after a weekend of teaching some fantastic workshops. I’m riding with my friend Tam and we’re traveling over the pass toward Rock Springs when we hit a full-assault blizzard with 65 mph winds which trying its best to blow us off the road. We decide to call this stretch 32 miles of hell, especially after we saw the trailer that had just flipped. White knuckled at the wheel, Tam tries to calm her nerves by singing along to The Grateful Dead (irony isn't lost on me). She is breathing sighs of relief between choruses. After we reach the summit and start to head down the other side of the hill, the worst part is over and Tam turns outright giddy with relief.
Whether it's a tricky spot in winter driving or something else in life, sooner or later we are bound to run into a tricky sitch. When these inevitable crises do occur, what do you have in your yoga first-aid kit? Here are a few suggestions of things you might want to have as a quick go-to that could help in tricky times to keep you going in the clutch moments when you've got to be on or when life's throws you a curve.
First, off: presence. Open your eyes. Times like this make you wake up from that anesthetized state. There is no cruise control, here. If you've practiced presence in meditation or yoga, it will be easier to really be on when you need to be. If not, no time like the present (I have a pun permit, so back off). Notice what's going on around you. Even when things are really tough, notice what's going on in your body. Take a moment, close your eyes (unless you're driving through a blizzard) and allow yourself to actually feel all of your body's sensation, all your emotions, thoughts, etc. without the need to change it. It's always surprising to me how readily this practice of seeing things objectively, even for a brief moment, helps me develop a clearer perspective of my problems.
Second: breathe! Ujjaiyi breath, the whisper breath we practice in yoga, is done by breathing in and out through the nostrils and slightly constricting the breath in the throat to feel and hear a whisper. It is one of the most effective things I know to lower anxiety levels and oxygenate the body to perform optimally. If you want to watch a video on YouTube of the one and only Matt Newman at the old Prana Yoga space demonstrating this technique, click here.
Third: do grounding poses like forward folds and seated or lying-down twists. They ground the nervous system and reduce tension from the body. Any poses that reduce muscular tension (stretches) are great to reduce stress and make you feel good. Remember body and mind are connected, so release tension from your muscles and watch how tension leaves from other parts too. Stretchy poses send endorphins running through your body and give you a mega-dose of Feel Good when life is crazy.
Fourth: take care of yourself. Even if you feel like you don't have time for anything superfluous, keeping yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically well is not superfluous. Too much relies on you being on and therefore you must keep your body/mind/spirit happy. This might mean taking the morning off and strolling through Red Butte Gardens or take a jaunt into Hatch Family Chocolates (8th Ave between D and E St.) for a Peanut Butter Truffle. Eat well with simple and nourishing meals (with occasional chocolate). Get enough sleep. Especially in times of crisis, do something for yourself to replenish the source so you have something to give back to everything that needs you. Otherwise, others will have to take care of you. Do it for yourself.
Fifth: simplify. Kindly say no to that extra social engagement. Stop trying to be perfect. Minimize and simplify.
Sixth: if you ever need a yoga 911, go to my web site and click on the yoga nidra tab. You can listen immediately to a recording of a guided mediation that will calm you down and give you some clarity to help you go on through your day with grounded clarity.
Finally, The House Martins help. If you don't know this band, check them out here. When I feel like life has slapped me down, this band has always helped me get back up. M-m. Love that band.
What is in your yoga first-aid kit? Please comment here and add let us know what you do in a yoga emergency. See what others are saying.
Take care of yourself!