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Using yoga to avoid the big fall

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A near collision on my bike enlightened me about yoga's role in tackling life's challenges

Blog by Francesca [Loveinvoke blogger-in-chief]

I was riding my bike on the Cultural Trail in Downtown Indianapolis a few weeks ago en route to the Monon for a ride up to the Broad Ripple Farmer’s Market. It was my first ride of more than a couple miles on my newly purchased bike, and I was excited for the adventure.

But as I was rounding the corner on the trail off Mass Ave near the Flying Cupcake, I ran into my first obstacle. Another rider was navigating a sharp corner at the same time as I was, and we nearly collided. Somehow I was able to remain calm, but the poor other guy nearly fell off his bike after wobbling around and weaving with a look of terror on his face. Finally, he regained his balance -- slightly embarrassed -- and we both apologized and went along our rides.

As I rode off, I began to think about why I was able to maintain my composure with relative ease while my partner in collision nearly wiped out. My mind went immediately to the first chapter of yoga instructor Cyndi Lee’s book, Yoga Body, Buddha Mind, which we’re reading in my yoga teacher training program.

In the first few pages, Cyndi describes her experience falling out of a boat into the icy cold water of a river in Costa Rica. She recalls being trapped under the boat but maintaining a sense of calm that she had honed through her yoga and meditation practices, even while thoughts of death were running through her mind. With steadiness, she was able to emerge from underneath the boat to be pulled out of the water by a yoga student with whom she was boating.

These physical obstacles are apt metaphors for the challenges that confront us in life. Just like the man with whom I almost collided on the Cultural Trail, it’s easy to find ourselves cruising along calmly when the path is clear and things seem to be going our way. But when life throws twists and turns into the course, we start to get off kilter.

For me, yoga has provided a powerful way to find balance in the midst of chaos and bring myself back to a sense of peace. Through the physical practice of yoga, I’ve learned the mental focus and discipline required to do some of the more challenging poses. There are certain poses that present me with particular challenges, but if my mind starts to panic coming into them, I know it’s a lost cause. Instead, I push myself to find a way to remain calm and steady, and in so doing I can find a greater sense of steadiness in the pose.

Just imagine if we could all take what we learn off the mat into the world and use it as we confront the twists and turns of daily life. Think how much more effective we’d be if we could find a way to be calm, despite the chaos.

Not falling off my bike in the midst of a near crash was a small step on the journey toward a better disposition in the face of life’s obstacles. I guess we all have to start somewhere.

Jarosz is a former journalist who loves to write, practice yoga, run and lead communications efforts for The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education reform nonprofit. Follow her on Twitter @francescajarosz.



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