If you ever paused to try to count the number of times you’ve been invited to “leave your baggage [or worries] at the door” before entering a yoga studio, you’d likely run out of fingers and toes. There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with this idea; we do need a break from panning through our to-do lists in a perpetual panic because something still remains unfinished. But when the weight of life is really bearing down on us or things aren’t going as planned, sometimes we need a chance to be honest with ourselves, connect with our breath and move toward a solution without wallowing in the mere existence of our challenges. Many of us carve out time for yoga practice not in spite of all thing things going on in our lives, but because of them.
Bring your Baggage
Most yoga classes include moments of movement and stillness that are connected by the breath. Sometimes the still moments are challenging, while other times the movement can push us to our edge. This is true of life in general, where challenges can arrive at any given moment. Checking our baggage [at the door] so that we can just move through poses may temporarily get our minds off of the issues we’re facing. But without the breath, and the mindfulness we cultivate using it, those poses won’t help us solve anything. Acknowledging challenges or fears when they arise and letting them pass with each exhale teaches us how to to work through them. We’re creating a little space between us and our issues, perhaps removing them from the physical space they occupy in our bodies. We begin to unpack our bags one article at a time.
This unpacking is where the real magic can happen. We stop breathing when we take in the thought of all of the worst possible outcomes of a challenge on the mat (for example, toppling over onto your neighbor when trying a new inversion for the first time) but fail to release those thoughts. We have no room for any other possible outcomes that lay ahead, no room for growth. But if we breathe fully through those swarming thoughts, maybe we can ignite something in us that helps us find a solution, face our fears and move forward; even if it’s just getting a toe off of the mat. Once we hit the sweet spot between an exhale and inhale, we feel a little lighter. We may or may not fall, but we’ve approached the pose with as much calm and equanimity as we could muster at the time. This teaches us lessons that we can apply in off-the-mat challenges. Lessons that we may otherwise miss if our proverbial bags were elsewhere.
What do we learn from keeping our baggage in-tow? We may learn that we had some extra articles in our baggage that didn’t belong, so we let them go. We might give ourselves permission to seek child’s pose when we need it instead of waiting for the teacher’s cues. This may translate into pushing pause more often during heated moments in life, rather than judging ourselves into a corner wedged between perceived weakness and defeat simply because we took a break. Each mindful breath and movement can empower us and teach us about our strength. Above all, we might learn that it’s not about pushing through or waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about creating a little space to find calm in the midst of chaos.
Let’s be honest: it’s not likely that we’ll solve all of our issues in one class. But even if we find 30-seconds of clarity in a 60-minute class, we’re making progress. No matter how long the unpacking process takes, maybe each time we leave the mat with bags a little lighter than those we might have otherwise reclaimed at the door.
Need a Pick-Me-Up?
- Check out this article on “Six Surprising Ways that Yoga Can De-Stress Your Life” on YogaJournal.com.
- Try this bedtime yoga sequence to help you get a good night’s sleep after a stressful day.
- Put on some music! Try Erykah Badu’s Bag Lady.
- Head to your favorite class at YIY (schedule here).
About the Author
Caroline Miles teaches and blogs for Your Inner Yogi. Read more of her bio here.