A Yogi’s Guide To Finding Peace Behind The Wheel

Shannon Brady
A Yogi’s Guide To Finding Peace Behind The Wheel

Texters. Tailgaters. Trash talkers. Even the gentlest of yogis can go from singing “Namaste!” to “no bleeping way!” just beyond the studio parking lot after class.

A year ago I moved from west coast urban center to east coast ‘burbs. No more five minutes or less commute to class for this yogi. Instead, I frequently encounter sports car Andrettis nudging the tail of my manual-transmission Beetle in frustration over not being able to reach 60 MPH in 6 seconds. 18-wheelers struggle to distinguish between me and a pebble in the road – swerve around it or squash it? 8-to-5 workday grinders send all sorts of hand signals my way. And I’m quite certain none are of the anjali or gyan mudra sort. More like the angry bird.

No matter. With a little help from the yamas, I’ve successfully managed to reach the four studios (in three different towns) I teach at happy and unscathed. And you can too.

Yama yama! Find peace behind the wheel with help from the sutras

For those of us not fortunate enough to giddy up on foot, or plop our shiny yoga tails onto public transit to get to and from class, driving is often our only option. And driving today can turn us from peaceful warrior into road warrior in less time than it takes to complete three Ohms. If we let it.

That’s where the yamas come in. Yogi philosopher Sri Patanjali knew a thing or two about human nature, and, even though he doubtfully envisioned a 12-step plan to tackle texters, tailgaters, and trash talkers on the road, the first limb – the yamas – on his eight-limb path are premium top-grade fuel for reaching the studio happy and unscathed. Counter these dangerous tendencies by applying the five yamas behind the wheel.

1. Flipping The Bird To The Guy That Cut You Off

Not very ahimsa-like, yogis. Ahimsa means non-violence. Or non-harming. We wouldn’t want to hurt Larry Laneswerver by pissing him off to the extent he has a cardiac arrest over our reaction to his mindlessness, would we? Or hurt ourselves by ending up in his line of fire. You never know what he might pull out of the glove box – probably not a glove.

Instead, use this time to practice your pranayama. Breathe big! And keep the middle finger wrapped lovingly around the wheel.

2. But I Was Going With The Flow!

At 80 MPH? Save your flow for class. Be honest. Practice satya, or truthfulness, and drive the posted legal limit. Even if the 18-wheeler and everyone else is blazing 20 MPH beyond the limit, why lie to the cop that pulls you over? His radar gun don’t lie, and the ugly ticket that ends in your lap will swiftly eat up a precious month’s worth of class dues.

3. Hogging The Road

That girl needs someone – ANYONE – to let her in. You don’t own the road, and nice yogi drivers let others merge in. Practice asteya, or, non-stealing, by slowing down enough for her to safely merge from on-ramp to freeway so she too can get to class on time. Happy and unscathed.

4. Channeling Danica Patrick

So you made the first payment on a jet-engine Ford Mustang. Congratulations. But do practice brahmacharya, continence, and resist the urge to treat the humble highway like the Indy raceway. Just not safe. There are video games for that.

5. Making Payments On A Jet-Engine Ford Mustang

That you can’t afford. When better alternatives exist. Practice a little aparigraha yogis, or non-coveting, and carpool with fellow yogis or take the bus instead. Creating unnecessary financial and emotional stress to keep up with the Joneses leaves little room to find peace on your mat. And if you still can’t get to the studio, roll out the mat anyway. Yoga can be practiced anywhere – even your living room carpet.

So next time you get behind the wheel, review the yamas before turning the ignition. You’ll arrive happy, unscathed, and prepared to meet whatever comes your way.