Many yogis practice to be able to take the calmness of mind out of the studio and into daily life. But of course that’s not always realistic.
Once you head out of the studio and the Savasana buzz wears off, no doubt you easily give the stink-eye and a few choice words to that driver who just won’t let you merge into the other lane.
I find that driving is one of the most difficult activities that I can do while keeping my “yoga mind.”
Whether it’s the innate sense of defensiveness that has my head blowing a little steam, the mind”less”ness I see so frequently on the roads, a little backache for sitting in an hour of traffic, or even if it’s my own fault for running late, driving is a real challenge to my practice.
But as a practicing yogi I have all the tools needed to make it through those challenges on the road. And I don’t even need a mat.
Just remembering a few important techniques can help when you’re not on the mat and need to find that calm mind once again.
1. Even Breath
Notice your breath when you drive – it’s probably not as calm as you think. And remember, that the breath is a mirror of the mind, so if you’re stressed out in traffic, so is your breath. Try one-to-one breathing to help focus and calm the mind – breathe in and out for the same count with the same intensity, you’ll be surprised how it can really help to focus the mind while driving.
2. Seated Twist
Changing lanes is a great opportunity to do a seated twist. While the rear and side view mirrors work, lifting the spine and twisting to look over your shoulder is better for checking your blind spot and stretching your back at the same time.
3. Side Stretch
Again, another great way to keep the spine healthy while seated during long commutes. Keeping both hands on the wheel, take a deep inhale, extend the spine and exhale slowly leaning to one side (keeping your eyes focused on the road), inhale back to center then exhale to the opposite side. Use your one-to-one breath to stay focused and move mindfully.
4. Seated Cat/Cow
You can totally do Cat-Cow while sitting in traffic! To do this, keep both hands on the steering wheel at the same level, and with a straight spine, take a deep inhale and a slight backbend while rolling the shoulders back slowly, then exhale and let the shoulders roll/hunch forward, and even try pulling the naval to the spine for an extra bonus.
5. Kapalabhati Breath
This is a great technique for removing both stress and toxins – even while driving your car! The breath is a forced exhale followed by a natural inhale while also being aware of bringing the naval center towards the spine during the exhale to create a warming sensation throughout the body. Try the breath in four 30-second increments. You’ll be amazed at how it calms the breath and the body afterwards. However, if this breath tends to make you dizzy, it’s probably not a good technique for you to try while driving.
While you can’t close your eyes and meditate while driving a car, the yogic techniques listed above can help you be in the present moment when it’s important.
So the next time you’re in a jam, stopped at the fifth traffic light in a row, late for work, cut off by another driver or all of the above, remember your yoga practice is ultimately there to help you when you’re not on the mat.