November 12, 2012

Yogic Driving—Where Road Rage Meets the Mat!

“If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.” ~ Vince Lombardi

The modern day yoga student can have a huge impact on the world simply by bringing his or her practice on the mat on the road. If life is really about the journey and not the destination, it is time for you to start practicing yogic driving and realize the magic of yoga everywhere in your life. Plus, you look good on a bike!

Below is a simple list of easy changes you can implement today. Pick any three and try them for a week. If they work for you, adopt a few more and share this article with your community.

10. Smile.

Smile when you give the person who cut you off the middle finger. Better yet, as you give that person the bird, try saying, “Namaste, muthafuck3r!” If this seems sacrilegious, try substituting your middle finger with the mudra of your choice. Rather than igniting road rage in another driver, give them a positive message that encourages the reaction you really want, peaceful compliance with the road rules. Currently, I am throwing up the “smoke a joint mudra,” inspiring stoners and confusing angry drivers. This simple practice will bring joy to a typically angry moment. If you can do this without smiling, something is really wrong!

9. Car Pool.

Crazy right? Find a friend and coordinate your schedule, even if it is only for getting to and from your yoga class! Whenever I picked up my mother-in-law, Jan, on our way to Marni Task’s Saturday morning class at Cleveland Yoga, I had a significantly better practice. Why? Because the experience starts with a shared moment, a connection. While you eliminate one car on the road that morning you have someone to check-in with and discuss the class with afterwards. Your community of two spills into class and creates a model that will inspire change.

Public transportation? Hell, yeah!

8. Slow Down.

Driving slower may be the easiest way to take your yoga practice to the road. Just as you slow your thoughts while meditating and find your drishte in Warrior II,  driving slower will make you a better person. It starts with better gas mileage and continues with a reduction in stress for you and everybody on the road. You will not be worried about getting a speeding ticket and you will find that it doesn’t change how long it takes you to get anywhere.

I started slowing down because I realized my kids are in the car with me and they will drive just like me one day. Slowing down your driving will let you live your life authentically and honestly when you have to teach that teen to drive and reduce the gasoline you consume.

7. Get a Hybrid.

If you have the financial means, trade in that escalade or minivan for a hybrid. While this is not a solution everyone can employ, you will find the driving experience quieter and more economical. Then put the money you save towards something you really care about. This is how we manifest our destiny. Are you almost always local? Go electric! Ninety-five percent of our travel is within range of electric cars. When you want to get away for that random weekend, rent a car! What are you waiting for?

6. Find Tadasana.

Before you start driving, take a second and check in with your body, car and surroundings. When you get in your vehicle you are the captain of your “ship.” When you are present in this space you will drive better and take better care of your car. While you are at it, make sure your tire pressure is right. This is an easy way to improve your miles per gallon.

5. Use Your Turn Signals.

When you are teaching a yoga class you give your students indications of where you are going. Sometimes this shows up as calling out a pose. Other times it is physical direction (“lift your hips to the sky” in downward dog is you using your turn signal). We share a passion for creating personal change through our yoga practice—how do you communicate the changes you are experiencing with your friends and family? How do you signal them so they can support you in your change strengthening  your relationships? Take your practice out of your head and into your personal choice of transportation. When you use your turn signals (or hand signals if you are biking) you create expectations for your actions. Your mindful behavior keeps the roads safe for all and empowers others to drive safely as well.

4. Know Where You Are.

Whether you are using your iPhone or your GPS or your old school paper map, your journey has a destination and you want to get there.

When we practice yoga we have a sequence and time structure for the class. The sequencing and tempo of the class are the GPS guiding us to a destination. When you know where you are you develop the confidence to get to your destination safely and with the least carbon impact possible.

3. Acknowledge the other Drivers on the Road.

This can be a small head nod to a smile to a wave.

The creation or magic within a yoga class or a studio is a result of our connection with each other. When you look someone in the eye and breathe with them you build the foundation that grows community. The road does not have to be a lonely experience; you can be the inspirational leader you are on your mat in your car!

2. Sing Out Loud.

When we sing, we elevate our spirit, connecting with a higher source of energy and focusing our actions. My third  yoga class was a yoga sculpt class with Tami Schneider. As we did bicep curls in crescent lunge, Tami started singing along with the disco house music playing. The joy created in that moment freed me to smile and ignited a yogic fire still burning bright years later. Playing music loud in your car is a start, singing along is how you get out of your way and live in the now!

1. Get a Bike.

We are constantly telling our selves to see the world differently, to find joy in little moments. When you ride your bike it changes your engagement with time while it reduces your carbon footprint. Yes, you will slow down and do less. What at first seems impossible will quickly become something you can not live without.

After a long period of not biking, I am on two wheels and loving it. I have cut my gas consumption in half, lost a few pounds and my legs are looking and feeling great! I wear a helmet when I ride because I want to practice yoga for as long as I can in this lifetime and because I want to set a good example for the kids. Start with a simple ride. Then set achievable goals for integrating the bicycle into your life. Riding a bike will extend the joy you feel after practicing yoga into more moments in your day and in your life!

Baron Baptiste has been known to quote the zen saying “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

We are never really on the mat vs. off the mat. We are as accountable for what we drive and how we drive the same way we are for mindfully taking classic headstand or meditating daily.

The next time you choose to give someone the finger, curse as someone cuts you off or drive instead of ride—consider this as part of your yoga practice. Ask yourself, is this how I want to show up on my mat? Challenge yourself: can I take my yoga practice off my mat and bring it into my life?



Ed: Brianna B.


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