At the beginning of each yoga practice, students set an intention for that days practice. Your intention can be whatever you need in your life that day. It can be a word, a virtue, a dedication, anything. On days when I feel less than 100% motivated, I’ll dedicate my practice to someone that I love or to someone I’m struggling to love, and I find that intention carries me through my practice. If I’m experiencing a shortage of compassion or grace in my life, I practice those things on my mat and find they’re more accessible when I step out of the studio and need to show those things to myself or someone else.

My intention during yesterday’s practice was presence and patience. Over the past few weeks I have noticed myself become increasingly anxious over little inconveniences and frustrations, so I went to my mat yesterday to work through those reactions. Because my mat is a microcosm of my life, I know that I can change my reactions in life by breathing through those same reactions in my practice. Holding that first downward facing dog? Breathe. Find stillness. Muscles quivering and shaking in that fourth or fifth king chair? Breathe. Be patient. Arms and shoulders screaming for you to drop them out of Warrior 2? Breathe. Remain present. I know that if I can quiet my mind when it’s fighting a pose, I can do the same when my flight gets delayed on my last leg after a long week on the road. If I can breathe through 3 or 4 long minutes in high plank, I can do the same when the electric bill comes and it’s twice as high as I expected. If I can remain fully present with my breath when I’m upside down and feeling claustrophobic because my body is in a tiny ball in deaf man’s pose, I can do the same when I feel panicky over a too long to-do list and looming deadlines.

What I learn on my mat is that discomfort and pain are temporary, and empowerment waits on the other side. Going through an emotionally devastating breakup? Feel every bit of it. Breathe through it without reacting to it. It will pass, and you’ll be left with a stronger version of yourself when it does. Struggling to make ends meet? Don’t panic. You may miss opportunities to create an income stream for yourself, or cut unnecessary costs, or live with less than you’re used to if you’re consumed with your reaction to the discomfort. Breathe and be patient, so you have eyes to see solutions when they present themselves. Doubting yourself? Slow down. Breathe. Get to a place of quiet and stillness where you can hear your intuition, then trust what it tells you. This is what I practice on my mat, and it shows up when I need it most.

When I stepped up to the podium at United Airlines gate A8 today and handed my boarding pass to the agent, he told me I didn’t have a seat and needed to see another agent across the hall. Breathe. I walked over to the counter, and the woman I was supposed to speak with was visibly frustrated with about 3 other things she was trying to do. She wouldn’t acknowledge the 3 or 4 of us who were waiting for her help so we could get our seats and board the plane. Breathe. When she did look up, it was with an air of resentment. She insisted I should have seen her sooner to get my seat assignment, as she pounded the keyboard with angry fingertips. Breathe. After a few moments of tense silence, she handed me 2 new boarding passes and sent me back to my gate. I walked up to the door, and the agent quickly stepped inside and pulled the jetway door shut and locked it behind her. Breathe. Several minutes later, she opened the door and led me down to the plane. I walked to my exit row aisle seat, and found it was taken. Could I take the (cramped) window seat a few rows up? Breathe. “Sure, no problem.” Smile. The plane hadn’t been serviced before we boarded, so there was quite a bit of trash from the last passenger in and around my new seat. Breathe. Smile. No problem.

Before my class yesterday, before I set in my mind to practice patience and presence, before I worked through my reactions to discomfort on my mat yesterday, I probably would have felt anxious over this series of events. I don’t know that I would have felt the need to externalize that reaction (ie: smack a fool), but I would have bottled some serious irritation. Today, though, I quieted that reaction before it even crept up. My breath carried me through what could otherwise have been a pretty annoying morning.

How do you deal with the frustrations and annoyances that creep up throughout the day? No matter how purposeful or proactive you are in your life, troubles will creep in and those things are completely out of your control. How do you deal with them? If you react, like I have lately, with a scoff and a sense of entitlement, I challenge you to cultivate patience. Smile. Choose not to react, but to show compassion to yourself and those around you. Above all else, breathe. You’ll create a happier, calmer, kinder self to share with the rest of us.

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