Yoga and the Friendly Skies

May 16, 2010 By: Michael E. Crowley Category: Living with Intention, Mind Body Spirit, Yoga

I’m doing something this weekend that I very rarely do– I’m getting on an airplane and flying to Chicago to take part in a family member’s wedding. I say rarely because I last flew nearly three years ago and that seemed like a good place to leave it.  Yet, here I go again, and of course it’s not going easily.

People who fly without the white-knuckled, jaw-clenching anxiety that I endure before flying seem like the bravest, shiniest people in the world to me.  I, in contrast, often feel like Hoggle from Labyrinth as I enter the concourse – shabby, muddy, troll-like, and in need of a place to hide.

In the scramble to soothe my nerves prior to this upcoming trip, I was poring through Bill Moyers’ Healing and the Mind.  In the section Healing from Within, Mr. Moyers interviews Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who specializes in using yoga as a means of stress reduction in his patients.  Dr. Kabat-Zinn says this about the real value of yoga: “If you do this (practice yoga) for any period of time, lo and behold, you’ll find the real value of yoga: to work at your limits non-judgmentally.”

Yoga has certainly shown me my physical limits.  As I’ve written before, sometimes my balance and I seem to be undergoing a trial separation while in certain poses, and it’s not always easy to release my breathing and truly inhabit each pose.

What if that wasn’t a bad thing, though?  What if having a hard time holding a certain pose, or sustaining my focus, was just an observable fact that could be recorded, understood, and then dealt with by continued, mindful effort over time, rather than being a reflection of my personal worth?

What if, instead of comparing myself to the passenger who’s on a first name basis with the flight crew, I simply worked on inhabiting the present moment and remembering that I’ve done this before and come out fine every time, as have millions of other people every day?

I’ll be thinking of this from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Taming the Tiger Within on my way to the airport: “When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself.  Live your daily life in a way that you never lose yourself.”

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