I’ve said in many classes that yoga is a practice or “the playground for life”. It’s where we get to try things out, practice them over and over, then use the skills in our everyday life. I do believe this to be true. And I got to witness it in myself on a recent trip for work.
I have always hated flying. From my corporate days when I spent much of my life on planes and in hotels. I am a homebody. So, all that travel did not agree with me. I hated everything about it – starting with packing, security checks, being crammed in a metal tube in the sky (all those germs!) to all the hundreds of delayed flights I dealt with over the years.
Yoga has consumed my life for the past year. Buying the studio, running the business, getting my teacher certification, and finally starting to teach. Because yoga has consumed my life, I guess it’s no wonder that it impacted my trip from the very beginning.
First, my anxiety level was a 1-2 rather than the 6-7 it always has been in the past. When I was packing, I chose to go minimalist. I usually pack way more than I actually need. Part of my strategy was to lessen the weight I’d be hauling around on my back as I ran from one side of the Atlanta airport to the other. But simply taking only what I really needed just felt good.
When I arrived at the security gate, I was the only person there (gotta love the Lexington airport). So, I wasn’t rushed to empty all of my belongings into plastic totes. As I entered the screening station (barefooted – yuck) and was told to step on the feet decals, I lifted and spread my toes. I grounded my feet and raised my arms and hands overhead. Well, this felt kind of natural, I thought. How many times have I done this in the comfort of the studio? The most amazing thing was happening….. I was paying attention. I was actually flowing through each moment with awareness rather than fighting and resisting the whole ordeal – which is what I had done for years.
Once I got to the gate, I’m pretty sure I was the only one reading an old fashion magazine. Like everywhere else in society today, almost every single person was sitting with their head hung forward, pecking away on their smart (stupid) phones. Families, friends…. few were actually speaking to one another. I stopped reading and just paid attention to what was going on around me. It made me sad that no one was talking. (But that’s another topic) The plane loaded. We left on time. And THAT is a big deal to me……
There was a time about 10 years ago that my co-workers didn’t want to fly with me. I’m pretty sure they started purposefully booking different flights because I had a black cloud over my head when it came to flying. I am not exaggerating when I say that every single flight I flew was delayed (by hours, not minutes) or flat-out cancelled. I now believe that I caused all those delayed flights with my negative attitude. I didn’t just verbally predict the flight would be a disaster – I felt it with every cell of my body. I manifested those disastrous travel experiences. (I apologize to all those people who flew with me over that decade). How do I know this to be true? Well, I don’t think the airlines have improved all that much. But my attitude has. I no longer anticipate the worst. And instead of the dread I used to feel about all those wasted hours in airports and on planes, I now appreciate the uninterrupted downtime when I’m not distracted by a million other things.
So, how does all of this relate to my yoga practice? First, I really do find myself being more present and finding joy (if not joy – at least contentment) in each moment. Second, I find I’m more patient. I can come back to my breath when I need a break from the chaos or when I’m simply experiencing discomfort (like when the plane is really cooolllddd). But I’m enjoying a physical benefit too. After getting up from a cramped seat or walking for 8 hours on a concrete trade show floor, I don’t ache and hurt like I used to.
So, if you ever wonder if your yoga classes are brining any real benefit, start to pay attention. Take notice. Be awake. Yoga has this crazy way of changing us. Bringing us peace. But if we aren’t paying attention, we’ll never notice the changes and therefore won’t be grateful for the small (and big) things. In every single class we practice mindfulness. We practice patience in a Yin class. We practice ways to be with whatever arises during that hour. Yoga is the playground. And life is where we get to put all that good practice to use.