From Checking to Carry-On: Yoga Baggage and Lightening Up (a Kripalu Conversation)



Walking back to the main Kripalu campus after our last class, Maggie, Alex and I were having a discussion about baggage. The emotional kind. Alex was explaining how he literally watches people shed baggage as they continue to come to yoga. He described a student who, after several classes, came up to him and said "When will I feel different? When does it start working?"

It is a great question - when does it start working? A fair question. One that I asked for many weeks and months after really setting my mind (and my body) to this whole "yoga thing." The truth is that it all depends on what kind of baggage you are carrying. Once the transformation happens, though - look out- you will be tossing bags and saving money on all those pesky fees.

I think the goal is what Alex boiled it down to as we walked:

"I want to have a backpack and that's it. I mean - it can be one of those I'm hiking through Europe for three months bags. But I want to be able to carry it on."

The goal is yoga carry-on.

I have often described myself as a "lighter" person in the 23 months that have followed the start of my yoga journey. I was carrying around at least two full-size suitcases all the time. They were exceedingly practical and matching and had bows and cute travel tags that said "fear" and "worry." When you have to carry around all of this luggage, it takes a physical and emotional toll.


There is no silver bullet in yoga. There is no fast pass, no card to draw that tells you to proceed directly to GO. The key is to keep with the practice. To show up even when you aren't particularly sure that the practice "is working." Moving and breathing will eventually lead to feeling.

Because one day, you are in downward dog, and you realize your mind is clear. You are - perhaps for the first time - operating from the present moment. Fast forward several weeks and you are at work. You pick up the phone for a tough conversation, and your breath isn't shallow. You are empowered, not cowering. This is what the shedding of baggage looked like for me. It was slow, it was subtle, and then it became a part of my life. And when you no longer have to carry around all of these bags - you  are free for other things - like bringing calm into a room or a situation.

Yoga does not change us so that we are unrecognizable. Yoga finds ways to bring out the best in our beings. I am always going to be a little bit more of a worrier than some people. That is part of what makes me Abbie. It is the same part of me that makes me good at my job. The yoga trick is that it will always be about balance.

Yoga brings us - sometimes kicking and screaming - in touch with how we really feel. It is why a pose like pigeon can make me put my hands to my eyes and think - really? I'm crying? Now? It is why lunge pose can make me so angry that I am contemplating lion's breath before it has even been introduced in class.

Yoga might bring us to our knees - but it gets us to our core.

In linking breath and movement - the practice also helps us to realize that in order to be a whole person - we have to shed what we don't need. Ideally, we are shedding the items that cloud over our happiness: regret, distrust, anger, sadness, and any number of other vulnerabilities and feelings of anguish.

Please don't misunderstand my intent - we all need a little baggage. We have to remember how to feel, we need to be great keepers of empathy and compassion. Life was not meant to be a painless journey, but I think there should be space for happiness, contentment, and joy.

I am still working from the two carry-on position (I mean - let's be honest - the FAA says we can have a carry on PLUS a personal item). But I'm hoping that one day I'll be the one-bag kind of girl.

Well, okay, one bag and a mat.