Even though yoga has helped me become kinder to others, when I’m in my car and stuck in traffic, any practice of loving-kindness is replaced with a middle finger and a resounding f-you. Yoga asks us to serve the world in an elevated capacity. But it can be difficult when our daily commute is stressful and even dangerous. However, with practice, yoga can help drivers be more mindful when hitting the road.
Core Power Yoga in Phoenix and Allstate teamed up in August 2016 to inform drivers of the importance of mindful driving. According to the spokespeople for the Be Present mindful driving campaign, which aims to end distracted driving, 25% of accidents involve smartphone use. More alarmingly, in 2015, there was a 15% increase in fatal vehicular accidents. With these looming statistics, it is more important than ever to be a mindful driver and do yoga practices for driving. Thankfully, there are multiple ways that yoga can turn a traffic jam into a joy ride.
1. Eliminate Distractions
Similar to pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), eliminating distractions is one of the best ways to be a mindful driver. Focus only on the road. Put your phone in the backseat or glove compartment. If you have to use it, pull over before sending a text message or making a call. Make your playlist in advance so you aren’t distracted shuffling through music. If you are rushed and have to eat in the car, carve out 10 minutes before or after driving to mindfully eat.
Pranayama (conscious breathing) can calm the road rage you might feel when someone cuts you off in traffic. According to research from Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, conscious breathing can reduce anxiety, improve stress resilience, and lower the heart rate.
Not all yogic breath is appropriate while driving. However, there are a few breathing practices that are safe to do behind the wheel. Dirga Pranayama (three part breath) is relaxing and calming. Ujjayi Pranayama (victorious breath) can redirect your focus from frustration to the soothing sound of the breath.
3. Be Compassionate
Yoga teaches us to treat all beings with love and compassion. Still, when you are alone in your car, it is easy to forget that you are interacting with other humans. As such, practice compassion with fellow drivers. For instance, drive the speed limit so that you don’t endanger yourself and/or others. When someone lets you merge, wave to say thank you. Offer other drivers the same courtesy as you would to a friend.
4. Do Yoga Before Driving
Before hopping in the car, take two or three minutes to stand in Tadasana (Mountain pose), close your eyes, and breathe. Or spend a few moments moving through Cat pose and Cow pose. Your pre-travel yoga practice doesn’t need to be intense. Simply give yourself time to get centered.
5. Set an intention
Yogis practice intention or sankalpa as a way to stay focused and to redirect distractions and frustrations toward something more positive. For instance, if drivers in your area tend to be aggressive, drive with the intention of having peaceful interactions with fellow motorists. If driving stresses you out, set the intention to stay calm and let go.
6. Observe Your Body
Current research proves what yogis have known for thousands of years: emotions manifest in the physical body. For example, when traffic is gridlocked and frustrations are high, the body tenses. Use your drive to connect the mind and body. Where can you soften? Are you clenching the steering wheel? Notice your shoulders. Draw them down and away from the ears.
7. Practice Yoga Regularly
All of these methods are important components of a regular yoga practice. So the more yoga you do, the more natural these become. If you aren’t sure where to start, try this Calming Basic Yoga Sequence.
Everyone suffers from mild anxiety from time to time, but chronic anxiety takes a tremendous toll on the body, draining energy resources and keeping the body in a constant state of stress. The effects of anxiety are magnified when the body is not exercised: tension in the muscles builds, breathing remains constricted most of the time, and the mind has no rest from the whirling thoughts and feelings that feed the anxiety.
Yoga helps you to access an inner strength that allows you to face the sometimes-overwhelming fears, frustrations, and challenges of everyday life. The American Yoga Association program to reduce stress in the body, breath, and mind does so by building coping skills with a small daily routine of exercise, breathing, and meditation.
A few Yoga exercises practiced daily (especially if they are done just prior to meditation) help to regulate the breath and relax the body by gently releasing tension from the large muscle groups, flushing all parts of the body and brain with fresh blood, oxygen, and other nutrients, and increasing feelings of well-being. “Whole body” exercises such as the Sun Poses are particularly helpful because they encourage you to breathe deeply and rhythmically. Many exercises can be adapted so you can do them even in an office chair. Our Basic Yoga video provides a complete introduction to these exercises and contains a 30-minute exercise routine with breathing, relaxation and meditation.
The Complete Breath technique is a must for anyone who often feels “stressed out.” Once learned, the Complete Breath can be used anywhere, anytime, to reduce the severity of a panic attack, to calm the mind, or to cope with a difficult situation. Learning to concentrate simply on the sound of the breath as you inhale and exhale evenly and smoothly will help you gently but effectively switch your attention from feelings of anxiety to feelings of relaxation. The Complete Breath is featured in our Basic Yoga video and all instructional books from the American Yoga Association.
Daily practice of complete relaxation and meditation is also essential – even a few minutes of meditation during your work day can make a difference. This daily training in focusing the mind on stillness will teach you how to consciously quiet your mind whenever you feel overwhelmed. Meditation puts you in touch with your inner resources; this means less dependence on medications, greater self-awareness, and a fuller, happier life.
Article Credit: American Yoga Association link