Yoga To Handle Life’s Curve Balls
How Yoga Can Help When Life Throws You Curve Balls
In a series of unfortunate coincidences, I have been scheduled to teach yoga on or around the time of a terrorist attack on three separate occasions. The first was in 2001 on 9/11 when I lived and taught in New York City. My classes in the financial district were cancelled permanently. My classes in other parts of the city were on hold for a number of weeks.
Once classes resumed, I did my best to hold space for grieving while helping to uplift people’s spirits. But as soon as I was inside my apartment door, I would slide down the wall and sob, letting out the tears and angst I shared with everyone in the city.
Then there was the Tube bombing in London. I had been lucky enough to be touring with Krishna Das through Europe and had a workshop scheduled in Notting Hill. The morning of my workshop, I came down in the hotel elevator to get on the Tube and as I stepped out into the lobby, I ran into Krishna Das who asked, “Where do you think you’re going?” Needless to say, the workshop was cancelled due to the bombing that morning in the Tube. No one could get to Notting Hill.
Two weeks before I was scheduled to teach in Boston, I learned of the bombings at the Boston Marathon finish line. The workshop was to be in Cambridge, the residence of the bombers and a hotbed of police activity in the days after the attack. It was uncertain whether the workshop would happen but fortunately the lockdown on Boston was lifted and the remaining bomber was caught.
Returning now from Cambridge I am reminded of just how powerful a yoga practice, particularly one that is done in community can be when coping with tragedy, anxiety, fear or grief.
We’re Not Here to Check Out
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not meant to help you to get so meditative that nothing phases you. It is not meant to make you so blissed out that you can gloss over any tragedy. Yoga is meant to assist you in receiving exactly what the world is offering. As I said in Cambridge, “We are not here to check out.” There is no doubt that the world will continue to throw us curve balls. Are you ready to receive things out of left field? Are you ready to take the curve balls seriously when they come? Are you capable of weathering the storms?
Here is how yoga can help:
Mindset is Everything
When we are going through a rough period, our psychological affect naturally becomes low and our outlook can be more despairing or negative.
This is healthy because it means you are receiving what has been offered and you are not in a state of denial.
Getting on your mat, being physical, and connecting to your breath and your body will help shift your state from hopelessness to faith and trust.
Yoga in Community
When the storm comes, you must have others to huddle together with to stay warm. Look at the penguins of Antartica.
Being in community and connecting with others who are seeking a conscious life helps change your psychology and outlook.
Do your practice with others. Do it in studios, at workshops, at trainings, at yoga festivals, and conferences and meet some friends for life. When you are going through something challenging, reach out to these friends. Go for a walk with them, practice together, or share a meal.
Keep company with anyone living a conscious life – not just yogis!
Embrace The Paradox and Thrive
Yoga continually helps us see polarity and paradox. Yoga teaches us to connect and be closer to nature. There you will see paradox everywhere – night and day, rain and sun, or waves going in – waves going out. You see it in your yoga poses that are steady and yet easeful.
The more you are in touch with paradox, the easier it is to embrace it. So when life or the state of humanity seems to be crumbling around you, having experienced paradox in yoga you’ll able to touch into the part of life that is still beautiful, enjoyable and even humorous.
In other words you’ll become more able to hold grief in the same breath as joy.
Do Something to Serve
When tragedy hits or times are tough it can be easy to become complacent or isolated and do nothing. In those two weeks after 9/11 when classes were cancelled, I became increasingly depressed. It was not until I taught my first yoga class again that the malaise lifted. My mood shifted and my capacity to embrace life increased the minute I was able to be of service and be useful again.
Luckily my flight to Boston was scheduled to get in on the Thursday before the workshop. When I realized I had the day free on Friday, we organized a last minute benefit yoga class to help the 260 victims injured at the finish line.
My hosts in Boston found out about The One Fund Boston, established by the mayor. The medical bills for these victims are extensive and will last long into the future as they are treated for pain, rehabilitation, PTSD, and must endure multiple surgeries.
From online and student donations we raised over $2000. Our goal is to hit $3000 from online donations. We are still fundraising for our benefit until May 7th (so please donate if you feel moved!) – One Fund Boston 100% of your donation goes to the Fund.
Yogis have long known the power of service (or Seva). Do something to help heal, give your support and be of service. This will instantly enhance your mood and move you through your own grieving process more swiftly.
Lila in Sanskrit, means “divine play” or more literally, when life presents random circumstances you didn’t ask for and never could have predicted. These situations will happen and that is the point. How you skillfully engage the turn of events is where your yoga comes in. Keep practicing. Keep practicing. Keep practicing.
~ Amy Ippoliti, prAna Ambassador
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