The Yoga of Kennywood

Last night, my husband and I went on the best date ever to Kennywood Amusement Park. Before we had kids, we used to ride roller coasters all summer long. We even had a yearly trip to Cedar Point to ride some of the fastest and tallest coasters in the nation. But after we started having kids, we stopped riding the big rides that you have to be above a certain height to ride. That was until my wonderful mother-in-law said she would babysit our three kids for 6 hours so we could finally go on a date. We rode all of the rides that Pittsburgh’s iconic amusement park has to offer.

As I stood in line, with my best friend, about to be thrown at the ground in a steel car, I realized that my practice in yoga helps to enhance my park experience. From waiting in line, to Potato Patch fries, to the riding all of the rides, yoga makes everything better.

  1. Waiting in line is never the most entertaining thing you can do. But yoga has taught us that sometimes being still is important. Use the slow crawl towards your ride, or ice-cream, or the bathroom, as a moment to watch your breath (maybe try not to breathe too deeply if you are in the actual bathrooms). Use the time you have to stand still, to actually appreciate being still. Notice the beautiful day around you. Pay attention to the people who are waiting with you. Meditate, with your eyes open so you can see when the line moves, on being fully present in the moment. Any day at an amusement park is a good day.
  2. While you are waiting in line, practice a little aparigraha, the non-grasping yama. Don’t rush. Don’t cause yourself stress trying to be first, squeezing past people to get into line. And if someone does decide to cut in front of you, don’t fret about it. You’ll get your turn to fly through the air, one kid trying to get up to their friends so they can ride together won’t greatly multiply your wait time. Grasp less, enjoy more. If you don’t win that huge stuffed emoji, or they run out of fries right before you order, let it go. Roll with the punches, just like a coaster down a hill.
  3. Once you are finally get on the ride, your heart rate might accelerate. Embrace the thrill. Watch yourself. Breathe, even if you are terrified of heights and you’re dangling at the top of the Aero 360. Yoga teaches us to be present and watch ourselves through every moment, hard, soft, and even exhilarating. Time slows down when we allow ourselves to be in the moment, savor it. Enjoy the ride.
  4. It might be hard to enjoy the ride, if it is hurting your back. The Thunderbolt, in particular, is rough on spines. While riding, remember to use your bandhas. Squeeze your low belly, mula and uddiyana bandhas, up to stabilize your low back. Support your neck by drawing your jaw back just a bit, using your jalandhara bandha. Throw your arms in the air, but rotate your triceps toward your face and biceps behind you, so if you get jostled you don’t yank an arm too far back. Feel strong, and free. Fly, bounce, and fall, all while taking care of your body.
  5. All of this core work can really fuel your appetite. Love your body when you decide to get a corn dog and slushy. You have to eat, and its not like the salads at Kennywood are the best. Live in the moment. Don’t fret over calories devoured. If you feel really bad about that second order of fries, you can go to yoga tomorrow. Pace yourself when you’re eating, and think about how much walking you have to do to get to the Exterminator.
  6. Loving your body is important, but so is loving everyone else in the park. Summertime means that teenagers have the freedom to escape and ride rides. There might be boys rough housing right in front of you, as they pressure their friend to get on a ride he is scared of. Farther down the line, there might be kids making out. People will show up to Kennywood from all walks of life. The lines and rides are great equalizers. All ages, races, and socio-economic statuses, show up in the summer to ride, play games, eat, and have fun. Kennywood is a great melting pot of humanity. (Sometimes, literally melting on those 90 degree days, but that doesn’t bother you, if you do hot yoga.) Be compassionate to everyone. Love everyone. They all came there for the same reason as you, to have fun. Try not to judge, but rather appreciate, the person screaming at the top of her lungs on the Pirate Ship. Thank goodness for the variety of people in this world. Variety is the spice of life, after all, and a day at any amusement park is made better by it.

I can’t wait to go back to Kennywood with my kids. It’s going to be a blast, but I’m sure that I’ll need to yoga to recover, as well. This is why amusement parks and yoga go hand-in-hand. Ride and play all summer long, and get back to your mat to practice everything that you’ll need to get the most out of your summer.

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