Let it Roll: Applying Yoga to Life

Well I am back from vacation. I made it home in time to hit the 4:30 class on Friday afternoon and turn back around for the 9:00 class Saturday morning.

I have very interesting things to share with y’all from my vacation in West Virginia. It was a great example of how to apply principles learned in Bikram yoga to life outside the hot room.I imagine you could do the same with any form of yoga. In today’s post, I want to focus on how I used yoga principles during my vacation. Tomorrow, I want to talk about food and what happened when I ventured out into the world beyond my house and neighborhood and had to eat in it.

Day 1: Well, I Woke Up This Morning, and I Got Myself a Beer

Yoga Lesson: Focus on your breath (except when underwater). Calm your mind. Have a mantra (singing songs can help when, “Lock your knee” doesn’t apply).

Day 1 of our vacation consisted of arriving at the resort and taking about two hours of private kayaking lessons. Day 2 was spent whitewater kayaking. The lessons on Day 1 were meant to teach us the basics in a lake and get us prepped.

I have absolutely zero experience in a kayak. I have a decent amount of whitewater rafting experience, but that is not the same. When whitewater kayaking, you sit in your kayak and then you attach what is called a skirt around the hole you just stepped into. This prevents water from getting in your kayak. If your kayak flips, you pull a handle on the skirt and you come right out in the water.

If the whole skirt thing doesn’t make sense (it didn’t to me until I lived it) just know this: I am sealed inside my kayak but can exit easily.

My instructor, who was excellent and super cute, was intent on flipping me over in my kayak right away and teaching me how to get out of it. I didn’t enjoy this part, but eventually I did it. It was fine.

Later on, he thought I should learn how to do an eskimo roll. We went slowly at first.  He didn’t just flip me upside down and expect me to right myself. The first thing he did was flip the kayak on one side and then, with little more than half my head in the water, get me used to flipping myself back up. Eventually we figured out I was good at flipping myself up when I was only half submerged. But all the way under? I freaked.

I explained that when I was halfway down, and he was still supporting me, I would focus on a tree off in the distance, take a breath, focus on that breath, and then just flip up. When I was fully under my system didn’t work. No tree. Shouldn’t breathe. Panic.

We solved the problem by finding a song for me to sing in my head. We landed on Roadhouse Blues by the Doors. I decided on the line, “Well, I woke up this morning, and I got myself a beer.” He had me go just halfway into the water, close my eyes so I couldn’t see the tree, and sing the song in my head. I flipped up. It worked!

I quickly learned how to focus my mind in this context so that my body could do what was needed to right myself. In the end, while most people do the roll with a paddle I was ableto learn (kinda) the more advanced version of doing it with no paddle and just my hands. I’m not great at it. I will still pull the strap on the skirt and use my escape hatch when flipping over. However, I thought this was an excellent example of how our minds get in our way. If we can quiet our minds and keep the negative chatter at bay we can do more than we realize.

Day 2: Let It Roll Baby Roll

 Yoga Lesson: The Body Follows The Eyes. Therefore, if you look at rocks while kayaking you will crash into them.

Day 2 was spent kayaking on whitewater. We went through, I don’t know, way too many rapids. The first and last were classified as 3’s and the rest were 2’s. Guess who freaked out in the first and last rapid? Yes, me.

First off, I just don’t think a first-timer should be going down a class three in a kayak at all, but it happened. I spent the entire time in the first rapid screaming in general and screaming at my instructor. He was yelling at me to do something with my kayak, and I was yelling back that I couldn’t make my kayak do what he wanted. It is a miracle that I did not fall out in the first rapid. There was a big hole, and apparently I went straight through it backwards. What saved my behind is that I went through it perfectly straight. Note that this was not due to any sort of skill on my part.

After that fiasco, I decided to start singing again. I returned to my Doors song but ditched the beer line (which leads into,”The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near,” – not something I wanted to sing as I paddled myself through rapids). I switched to, “Let it roll baby roll,” which worked better. The singing calmed my mind. For awhile I sang loud and proud through the rapids. I stopped that when I realized singing in rapids is a good way to drink lots of water.

I was doing ok until we got to the last rapid. It was a class three, but with no big holes like the first one. It had a lot of rocks and required some manuevering.  It was also the longest rapid of the day. My mind kicked in and scared me with all kinds of awful thoughts- mostly about how I was going to flip over and die.

You see, my biggest fear about kayaking in whiterwater was that:

(a) I would flip &

(b) I would flip out onto a bunch of rocks.

I was really, really afraid of what was beneath my kayak. Well, the universe was kind enough to listen to me and provide me with the opportunity to face my fear head on. Thanks Universe!

Before heading in, we discussed how to approach and make our way through the rapid. This included drawing a visual line from the entry point to the exit point. Then you just follow your line. It’s just like what they say in Bikram, “The body follows the eyes.” It’s a great strategy. And guess what? The body really does follow the eyes and not just when you’re in class.

My eyes got super focused on some big rocks. This resulted in my nailing them with my kayak. I wish I had a picture. I really would like to see this. I think I spun around backwards, lost control of my kayak, and hit the giant rocks. My kayak flipped up, and I went out. I was in the water – totally free of my kayak – in an instant. My face hit a rock (just one little scratch). I flipped over and bounced my butt across a few others. I told myself to focus, and I did. At that point it was a matter of listening to my instructor tell me what to do. All I had to do was follow the dialogue. 🙂

What I Learned

What we learn in the yoga room has some great applications to our lives. The biggest influence, I believe, is our mind. Once I learned how to relax, except things, and be in the moment I had a much better time. Often I would get scared and remove myself from the moment. The moment was scary for me, but instead of recognizing my fear and moving on I let it spin out of control time to time. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to question my sanity for signing up for a day of whitewater kayaking. But at some point we have to let our fear go, simply be in the moment, and take what the moment brings us.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. LeighAHall (@LeighAHall)
    Dec 04, 2014 @ 22:14:12

    Let it Roll: Applying Yoga to Life http://t.co/ecOhknVfV0 #bikramyoga #yogaholicsmag

    Reply

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