Yoga For Drivers – Ahimsa

It’s no secret that the hardest ‘Yoga’ to practice is all that is NOT on your mat – don’t forget you don’t practice for the glory of the pose; you practice so you can live better outside of the Yoga room. One place off the mat where you WILL be tested is ‘THE CAR’!

I often have conversations with people about difficulties of driving in Jersey. In the past I have gotten quite animated on this topic. You know how such conversations go: Those chatting are always ‘excellent drivers’ 🙂 and the ‘unknown driver’ seems to have got their license out of a cornflake box 🙂

I could easily make a long list of ‘DRIVING IN JERSEY’ ISSUES. To illustrate I will give you just two (1) You’re playing chicken in a country lane, your 2/3 along it, you can see the layby that the car facing you SHOULD have stopped at but kept coming regardless and now they SHOULD be reversing ‘cos you’re the one with the queue of cars behind you, but instead they have stalled and are sitting glaring at you and you know deep down they actually don’t know how to reverse their vehicle and you are proven right when they finally ‘get it’ that they have to move and they start/stall 3 times before they get back to layby. (2) You are tail-gated 3 times a week on bendy lanes where you have no idea what’s around the corner but the car behind is in such a hurry and so close any second now they will be bumping you a long, God forbid you have to break suddenly!

For years a variation on road rage would take place in my head; I was reactive: swearing, name muttering (altho’ not confrontationally), glaring into space, heart racing and, often long after the other driver had gone past, feeling emotional.

In Yoga in order to move towards ‘Oneness’ certain principles must be adhered to. Patanjali, one of India’s great sages, lists guidance in his Sutras, the first being the Yamas & Niyamas. Of the Yamas ‘AHIMSA’ or ‘nonharming’ is probably one of best known (Gandhi having made it a pillar of his teachings). Patanjali says we must actively practice non-harming as a foundation of our Yoga practice. For the individual probably the best place to start is to pay attention to the pattern of our thoughts. E.g. when driving; it is easy for emotions to bubble to the surface because we may feel justified or we may feel that we are in the sanctuary of our car; there is no person physically close, the annoying vehicle/driver has gone passed, no-one will know. We may feel we did not act out violently on our angry thought, we did not give them physical expression, so what does it matter? THESE THOUGHTS ARE SIGNIFICANT. They are the seed of our words and actions. If we want to change the way our words and actions are in this world then we MUST start with our thoughts.

First ‘tho you have to ACKNOWLEDGE that such feelings are arising and that some may be irrational (worryingly, they may seem normal and beyond control for some). Then, YOU HAVE TO RECOGNISE YOUR POWER to stop them.

NOWADAYS I ENDEAVOR TO PREVENT such harmful, mentally/physically toxic, primitive feelings arising whilst driving by getting in my car on time (thus avoiding the feeling of having to rush). I set my pace for my destination and affirm I will keep my mind on task in hand and then I choose my technique. I may use a Raja meditation, an affirmation (I am calm driver, I am peaceful driver, I am…), a mantra, a chant or a prayer. Having someone in the car may dictate my choice. I may practice ‘Mindfullness’, a conscious choice to be present ‘in the moment’ for the journey.

AS FOR THE ‘OTHER DRIVERS’? : For the ‘let’s play chicken driver’ I endeavor to choose a smile or a nod at them and accommodate them (not always easy I know). I choose to be the one to reverse if there is no car behind (show off my most excellent reversing skills 🙂 ) . In the scheme of things it is really not that important or worth it to me to try to ‘win’ on this one. For the ‘bumper to bumper driver’ I stick my hazards on to get them to back off; it usually works.

For both I try to put myself in their shoes to think what it could be that makes them think they have to drive so dangerously. I try to see them as a person I am connected to and who is deserving of compassion. There could be an emergency, they could be having the worst day or their life or it could be they simply don’t realise what they are doing is wrong. This does not mean I condone bad driving. It is just my way of trying to navigate a negative situation that will likely re-occur. There will always be bad drivers. I am powerless over how they drive; I only have power over my driving and my thoughts, creating my outcome.

OF COURSE AS WITH ALL BEST LAID PLANS YOU WILL BE TESTED just when you think you’ve got it cracked 🙂 :
Yesterday driving down La Rue De Scelleterie the nose of a big car ‘shot’ out of a field on my left. Way too far out; Way too fast. Happily, I was driving ‘Daewoo’, if I had been driving Fiesta as I usually am it would have hit; those couple of inches in size saving the day.

I breaked, swore out loud (even ‘tho I swear ‘I don’t swear’ anymore 🙂 ) and glared at the driver, who seemed untroubled by this and just shrugged his shoulders at me. In the past this action alone would have been enough to set me off on one! You know as we navigate our day-to-day living we have to pick our battles. Sometimes you know there is absolutely no point in engaging with the ‘offender’. It may seem silly but what ‘pleased’ me about this incident was that even before I started to drive on again I felt calm and normal.

However, I did have to spend the next five minutes apologizing to my daughter (who was sitting in the back seat) for saying such a bad word. She knew I said a bad word but AMAZINGLY she misheard it and thought I had said a much milder naughty word than I actually had. Small mercy. Phew! 🙂


Trisha 2015

{Another update 2016!!  FIESTA got ‘written off’ on La Rue des Peupliers (green lane) by a large tractor with heavy load speeding and out of control. Road too narrow for it to pass, I saw it coming. I stopped. Put my hazards on. Put my hand up and mouthed I am going to reverse only to realise the driver had gone wide eyed and pale as he realised he was going to fast to be able to stop on time… It was my lucky day indeed that I walked away from that one. I haven’t driven on LRDP since ‘tho…

…’Cos we care about your journey to class, here is more food for thought on driving/parking Yoga stylie…

You are the Driver

Driving Tips 4 Us Yogis