But maybe especially so when the journey you’re making means you have to first go bi-coastal across the USA and then carry on to make a transatlantic crossing all in one transit plan. 6000 miles in under 24hrs, multiple stops – with 300 passengers on each of your flights, tens of thousand of people going through airports with you, airline staff, baggage staff, hotel staff and transit drivers: in 24 hrs of less, you get to see the whole world.
No one can say that yoga can’t help us when we’re involved in as much intensity as this. It’s relaxing, right? It’s stress relieving. It’s stretching. Everyone can use a little yoga on airport days.
But beware. There are signs that you’ve crossed the line from being someone who sometimes does yoga to being a yogi when you start doing things that are as natural to you as they are probably irritating to people around you – but you really can’t help it!
Because whilst everyone else is just trying to make the whole flight/layover/connection as ‘enjoyable’ an experience as it can be given the circumstances, you may instead be contemplating the extent to which we humans will go just to avoid the sensation of suffering: serving alcohol on airplanes to offer stress and boredom relief; offering continuous in-flight entertainment to provide distraction from long hours; enabling shopping from the air or in airports to give the feeling of pleasure when actually airplanes and airports are all about pressure.
And you might consciously decide not to seek pleasure as a response to pressure. You might choose to respond to the 6000 mile half-way-round-the-world 24 hour ride with the commitment to maintain as much stillness as you can for every single moment of the journey, so that when you get to your final destination you have all the energy, poise, and clarity you need to do whatever in the world you would go such a distance to do.
If you’re doing these 10 things, be warned: you’re a transatlantic traveling yogi, taking the journey at a pace all of your own, quite possibly irritating others with your daft and baffling ways, breathing in and breathing out as the world keeps turning, and things just keep moving – and maybe, you wouldn’t have it any other way…
- As soon as your transatlantic flight is in the air, you don’t even think about viewing the film choices because instead you have a short list of favorite mantras that you love silently chanting, and now you’re thinking about which ones you’ll repeat for each one of the hours that you’re in the air – and wondering what sequence it would be best to do them in…no, really.
- On a transatlantic flight you get up after a few hours in the air and start doing gentle ‘stretches’ in the aisle that happen to involve casually balancing on your left leg, whilst your right arm (that you’d casually stretched in to the air a few seconds ago) stoops down to pick up your right foot a few inches below the right toes from the inside, and you begin kicking the right leg out as far as you can without anyone really properly noticing, before bringing it back to the ground: acting again as if nothing really just happened and you were just having a regular little stretch…. like… ‘What?’
- You genuinely wonder at 3am in the morning on a transatlantic flight, when the cabin is in complete darkness, and everyone is either asleep, or wearing those eye masks or watching films that look like they’re glowing in the dark, if anyone would really notice or mind if you went for a full downward facing dog in the aisle, just to really stretch things out – and you find you’re asked by the flight attendants to not do that as they still need clear access to the aisles at all times.
- You ask the flight attendants for hot water every time they come by with the drinks cart and cheerfully hand them over your own reusable flask that you brought with you for the trip – and they say ‘Don’t you want me throw that tea bag out?’ And you reply ‘No, it’s rose and tulsi. It can take another round of hot water yet…’ Because it’s your favorite soothing thing in the world. And they oblige, but you can see they’re a little bit dismayed.
- The flight attendants feel so bad for you when they offer you ‘beef, chicken or pasta’ because you – with a sincerely sad face tell them you thought you ordered a vegan menu choice or a raw fruit platter when you made your reservation – that they come back 20 minutes later with small pots of fresh pineapple and melon and say ‘Your order just isn’t here, but we found some of these… could this work for you? Would this help?’ And then they smile because they see that you too are deeply smiling again.
- You call your family/friends/lover/life partner/colleagues from the airport when you land to let them know that you’ve arrived and and you say ‘My hips are so tight from just sitting in that air conditioned cylinder for so long. They really need to breathe…’ You notice there is silence at the other end of the phone.
- Your smiling, patient, unargumentative demeanour baffles all the airline staff who have to speak to you when your airline sent you to the wrong terminal for your connecting flight resulting in you missing the flight altogether, spending the night (at your expense) in a hotel and your airline trying to charge you $200 to book you on a next day flight – because you understand that your guru is giving you a chance to live your yoga under pressure: at once giving you the opportunity to burn karma and practice equanimity in all circumstances even though there’s a part of you that is so tired you could actually burst out crying.
- You see an orange robed Buddhist monk at the airport lounge whilst waiting for your connection and get kind of excited to think how maybe he’ll sit next to you and together you’ll talk about ‘Dharma’ – and you witness yourself feeling a little deflated when he walks right by you with great purpose and heads straight to the Costa Coffee instead. And whilst you notice (without any judgement) how assertive your ego is being, at the same time you seriously wonder if you should follow him to Costa and sit next to him in case he wants to talk…erm, ‘sangha’ – but, thankfully, your wisdom kicks in and instead you decide to go and get some more hot water and watch a video instead.
- You are delighted to get internet connection at the airport whilst waiting for your connection because you can finally catch up on some video entertainment – and you choose to watch videos of Himalayan babas teaching ancient yogic techniques to activate the pineal gland.
- You do your best to approach the hours and hours of your life that are being played out in airports in between flights with easiness – because after all, the more time there is in between ‘doing’, the more time there is for ‘being’ – and you find you can tune out the sound of warehouse trollies, baggage trollies, crowds coming out of elevators, and babies crying as you go deeper in your sadhana (be it asana, meditation, or chanting) under florescent strip lights.
But you always do open your eyes every 5 minutes or so in case said trollies, or crowds or children need to get past you – because somewhere inside you you have preserved enough sanity to remember that Yoga is not about escaping the world, but about showing up in it fully present, and of becoming aware of what, in this present moment, the next right action could be.
I made it to the other side today.
Nearly done. Two hours to go.
The florescent strips are shining bright. And I am breathing.
Originally published on my blog, The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spirituality.