At the center of life’s storms, I stand serene.
“Oh yeah, landing in Denver is a real doozie this time of year!” The knowing chuckles of my fellow passengers who had come this way before resounded all around. I, for one, was not expecting the part bucking bronco, part rollercoaster ride I was about endure.
It started with a sudden 30-foot drop in altitude. Most of my physical body went down with the plane, but it felt as though my stomach and energy body lagged behind a few seconds. The ensuing feelings of dizziness, nausea, anxiety and disorientation threatened to overwhelm me. It didn’t help that my seat was in the back of the plane, and that the jet was one of those smaller, less stable models. I was completely trapped, with nowhere to go but through the storm.
Somebody, somewhere, whooped gleefully. It always amazes me how some lucky souls, my husband for example, can carry on completely unaffected by the terrors of air turbulence. They go right on reading their magazines, or casually conversing. The somnambulant gentleman to my right snoozed on throughout the entire ordeal.
Flying has never been my favorite thing, but occasionally there is no way to avoid it. This time it was a business trip to Colorado Springs, by way of Denver. I don’t have a fear of flying exactly; it’s more a fear of air sickness that plagues me. I fear it because I have actually had the humiliating experience of needing to use one of those little bags tucked into the seat pocket. Really, if this has never happened to you, there is no way to know just how awful it is to throw up in front of complete strangers on a plane.
After that first drop, I knew I had my work cut out for me on a Yogic level. What is it that I’m always telling yoga students? Oh yeah, “as an asana, or any other experience, becomes more difficult outwardly, become more calm and still inwardly.” Right. And what’s the best way to access calm? The breath. Time to walk the talk, Alice.
Over the years I have developed the skills necessary for surviving the in-flight experience: Exactly one dose of Dramamine (less drowsy formula) and the practice of meditation, pranayama, and affirmations, especially during take-off and descent when I am most at risk for air sickness. These practices have served me well, but this time I knew I would have to dig deep into my yoga tool box.
With eyes closed and inner gaze fixed steadily at the spiritual eye, I willed my body to relax. I kept my breath as slow, deep and smooth as I could; lifting energy up the energy spine toward spiritual eye with each inhalation, and relaxing it back down toward base of spine with each exhalation. I added the affirmation, “I am calm, I am poised” to this breath pattern, clinging to my center with the full power of my will.
After a hellish 20 minutes or so, we were finally reunited with blessed terra firma. Thank God. I was definitely worse for the wear; nervous system jangled, body bathed in sweat and, oddly enough, my hands were paralyzed. It was as if all the stress and tension had somehow become focused in my hands which were lying limply in my lap, palms up, wickedly vibrating. As we taxied toward the terminal, I was eventually able to move my fingers, and massaged life back into my traumatized extremities.
Coping with that wild descent into the Denver airport would have been so much worse without the calming effects of Yoga. Daily life offers constant opportunities to remain peaceful in the face all manner of calamity, from the mundane to the catastrophic. And the more we practice, the better we get at remaining serene, despite the severity of life’s storms.
Do you have a story about how you used Yoga to help you get through a difficult experience? If so, I and others would love to hear about it! Post below.