yoga to become a better driver

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.

2. Breathe

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.



author credit: Rebecca Warfield on Yoga Basics article link

Chinese convoy in Lhasa

This image is disturbing for anyone who knows even a little about the Chinese heavy handed approach to Tibet. Even if one doesn’t know much about it, everyone at least is aware that the Dalai Lama has lived in exile for almost 60 years (he fled in 1959).

This image was taken in 2006 when the words ‘tourism’ and ‘Tibet’ were not heard in the same sentence. It was a destination for adventurers only.  China’s presence was obvious but not overpowering. For example, we were shadowed by Chinese guards as we toured Portola Palace, the Summer Palace, Jokhang Temple and market, but our activities were not restricted in any way.

In the intervening 11 years China has let go of any pretense of co-operation or respect for the Tibetan people, their religion and their culture. They have destroyed much of the ancient Buddhist capital, Lhasa, despite religious outrage. Much of the Lhasa we saw no longer exists. Ancient and beautiful Jokhang Temple, one of Tibet’s oldest and most holy temples, was erased. Why? To create an appealing tourist destination similar to Lijiang. “Shangri-La” in Yunnan Province.

How sad. How unjust.


Photo location: Lhasa, Tibet
Copyright Kate McKenna. All Rights Reserved.