When the World Is Falling Apart, This Is What I Do to Cope

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On the days leading up to the summer solstice—the longest day of the year—we had nothing but torrential rain in my part of the country. On solstice morning, when the Sun was as far from the Earth as it will be this year, well frankly, it felt that way. It  seemed to be deliberately hiding under a thick, silver cloud cover.

Isn’t that just the way? You hope for bright skies, but the weather is gray. You look forward to smooth sailing, but you get choppy waters instead. For me, life’s ups and downs would be easier to cope with if it weren’t for the unexpectedness of it all. You’re rolling right along when–bam!—you encounter an obstacle or a setback that seems to come out of nowhere.

Of course, as an adult and a long-time yoga practitioner, I’ve had plenty of lessons in making peace with “What Is.” When all hell breaks loose, as it does, I know better than to ask “Why me?” and instead ask myself “Now what?”

What’s the Worst That Could Happen? 

Some years ago, I read about a “worst case scenario” exercise that helps me think things through, especially when my anxiety flares up and worry kicks in. The technique works like this: Think of the worst thing that could happen in a situation. Then consider what you could do if the worst happened. It’s probably a dangerous game for someone who has a hard time emerging from the depths of doom. But I’ve found that the exercise helps me consider all my options, identify my strengths, locate my resources, and determine where I can turn for hope and help. It’s more empowering than blindly affirming that everything is going to be alright. It helps me figure out what I might do to make it so.

Yoga and other contemplative practices teach us that nothing lasts forever. There’s hope in that. For every down, there’s an up. If you’re like most people, you’ve had seasons when nothing seemed to be going your way. But you can also look back and identify when the clouds broke and the light emerged again.

It’s Not Just Our “Dogs” That Go Up and Down

I’m writing this on International Day of Yoga, the annual event that coincides with the summer solstice and has come to be associated with Sun Salutations. All over the world, yoga practitioners reach up and fold forward, practice Down Dog and Up Dog, step forward and step back in a cycle that mimics the ups and downs of life. Sometimes we feel like we’re touching the sky. Some days our knuckles are dragging on the ground.

In honor of the occasion, my colleague Renee gathered all the best stories Yoga Journal has ever done about different ways to practice Surya Namaskar. (And there are plenty.) But this series of poses certainly isn’t reserved for Yoga Day. As the stories in this collection demonstrate, the Sun Salutation practice can be adapted to any age or any stage of life. You can practice from a chair, in a bed, or against a wall. Sun Salutes can be a way to build up tapas (heat) or to quiet your soul as a moving meditation. It’s a practice that can serve you in whatever way you need.

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