These past few months have been intense and it feels like everything has been happening all at once: hurricanes, fires, mass shootings – all public events – without mentioning our own personal challenges. It’s enough to create a feeling of inundation. I know that if this had happened 25 years ago, I would have survived it but would have been a ‘hot mess’ in the process. I never knew that, when I first stepped onto my yoga mat, it would prepare me for the ups and downs of daily living, but it has and for that I am grateful.

We expect those huge, and sometimes intense, challenges to happen in life, but when they stack up in short succession it can be enough to push us over the edge. Our yoga practice can support us in finding what we need to do to keep from submerging. It may get rocky, but we don’t capsize as easily. And when life is full of challenges, we are often pulled outward into the chaos. We focus on details of events, begin to project into the future, and create stories around the unfolding drama. Yet we know that when we become established in our yoga and meditation practice, we remember one of the things it has taught us: go inside, rather than out.

When tragedy strikes – and it seems to be doing so ever more frequently – how do we manage those feelings of grief, anger, and helplessness?

Now, more than ever, we need to step fully into the light of our own inner strength and affirm that the direction we want is one of love, hope, tolerance, and compassion. The practice of beginning with our own suffering, offering ourselves loving kindness is vital. When we sense our knees buckling under the heaviness of our times, instead of pointing fingers and looking outside ourselves, we offer ourselves kindness. As we dig into that intention with an authentic dedication, affirming repeatedly that what we wish for ourselves, we wish for all beings everywhere: to be safe; to be free; to be happy; to live with peace and ease.

We can learn to become radically present through slowing down, taking a deep breath, and relaxing any unnecessary tension. The more we do it the easier it becomes, and the beauty of this practice is that it gives us a method for dissipating the energy of intense situations. The tricky part is that we need to practice doing so BEFORE the intense situations happen. And that’s one of the reasons we come to the mat…to practice finding equanimity in the midst of challenging moments.

It’s ineffective to ask someone in the middle of a crisis to “take a deep breath and relax” if they’ve never done so before that moment. We come to the mat to practice finding ease when things get challenging so that when everything happens all at once, we have a way of getting through and being with it, perhaps even with a smile on our face!

Jayne Robertson, C-IAYT, E-RYT 500, is owner and instructor at Desert Yoga Therapy in Rancho Mirage. For more information, visit or call (760) 456.5160. Email [email protected]

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