the llama blog
practicing yoga off the mat.
After an enjoyable morning at the National Aquarium, my little ones and I traveled home from Baltimore to Hagerstown. Both children could barely keep their eyes open, and immediately fell asleep to the hum of the car.
As I pulled my vehicle onto I-70, the rain began to fall. Within minutes, the radio began the loud emergency beeps, and my cell phone started buzzing with alerts. Tornado warnings. I stayed calm, and prepared myself for the ride. I turned down the radio, and let me eyes sweep across the sky for any wicked, dark clouds.
The light rain turned into a downpour with so much water falling I couldn’t see out the window. My speed dropped from 65 mph to 10 mph. Hail and wind began to pick up, and my heart rate increased. My grip on the steering wheel tightened. My breath quickened. I glanced into the backseat to see my two sleeping babies oblivious to the danger we could be in.
My mind began racing. “Should I pull over?” “Should I keep driving?” “I knew there was a chance of a thunderstorm today. Why did I chance it?” “I’m so stupid. I’m putting myself and my children in danger.” “I’m a horrible mother.” “How will we ever survive?”
Instead of letting this berating conversation continue, I decided to pull over and breathe. I took slow deep breaths and began telling each part of my body to soften. I shook out my fingers and rolled my neck. I sat for a couple more minutes just breathing, and watching the weather and cars around me.
I slowly came back into my body, and realized I had no way of knowing the severity of this storm. I also recognized there was no right or wrong answer in what I should do – pull over or continue driving. I felt my confidence rising as well as my body relaxing. The storm began to lighten up so I pulled back on the highway and made it home safely.
My story is not different or unique in any way. Heck! There were at least a 100 other drivers beside me at some during this storm. This is just an example of how I applied my yoga practice into real life.
The time we spend on the mat breathing, reaching, holding and releasing is PRACTICE for the other 23 hours or more in our days. It’s up to us to apply the tools we learn; otherwise, our time on the mat is wasted.
There are countless mindfulness methods I could have used in this moment and a simple guided relaxation with RAIN is what worked for me. Explore different styles to determine what is best for you.
Below is a mindfulness technique coincidentally named RAIN. It was created as a tool for social workers, teachers, first responders that work in the trenches with humanity. However, it’s a great tool for anyone for anyone wanting to change her behavior from reacting impulsively to mindfully engaging.
R: Recognize. The moment you feel your heart rate increase or your jaws tighten, stop and allow yourself to acknowledge what is happening in your body and mind.
A: Allow. Conjure up the Beatles tune “Let It Be.” Whether your thoughts are good or bad or neutral, just let them be. Sit with them. They are here, and they will NOT go away until we give some attention to them.
I: Investigate. With loving-kindness, begin to notice where in the body you are holding tension. Ask what emotions are associated with this area. Go to the root, and determine what triggered this response. Don’t judge yourself. Allow this to be a personal discovery of you.
N: Non-Identification. This is the “aha” moment. That moment when you realize fear of a storm is the root of the reaction, and you are not all of those things you mind said you were. Non-identification is the rainbow after the storm leaves where you can sit and reflect without attaching to what is, what was, what will be.
Freedom in the mind is found through connecting with your body, breath and thoughts. Each time you practice, you grow a little stronger, and you fight another day in the trenches. If you fail, dust yourself off and start again.