The traveling Yogi – Part 1

The traveling Yogi – Part 1

Being a yoga teacher doesn’t mean that I am always “Zen” and stress-free (see also 10 Misconception about Yoga – Parts 4 and 5). Especially traveling can bring up some interesting experiences that call on all the wisdom and knowledge I have to not become a complete jerk (excuse my French), or loose it in total physical and emotional discomfort. I may be exaggerating a little, but I am sure you can relate (and if you don’t travel: driving to the grocery shore in heavy traffic can be a similar experience). So here is my report from my travels from Manasquan (NJ) to Bali (Indonesia), with stops in Washington DC, Amsterdam and Singapore…

I have the luxury that I can fly stand-by when I travel for pleasure, which means I get to go places for really cheap when there are open seats on the airplane. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is great that I can go see my family and friends in Europe more than once a year, and go on a short vacation without having to spend a lot of money on airline tickets. On the other hand: the uncertainty of not having a seat until the very last moment (which is literally when all the “normal” passengers are already boarding) sometimes make me wish I had bought that full fare ticket. Be it as it is, it provides an opportunity to practice deep breathing… And so it was in the 24 hours prior to my intended departure to my first destination: Amsterdam.

I had envisioned getting on a 6 p.m. flight from Newark on Friday night. This would mean leaving the house at 3 in the afternoon to be royally on time. During the days prior, the loads (which are the number of seats on the air plane) didn’t look good. In other words: the flight showed as full. As I am a flexible yogi – not just physically, but also in the mind as a result of all that ‘stretching’ – I didn’t blink an eye and came up with a Plan B: I would go to either Chicago or Washington DC and fly to Amsterdam from there.  Normally, I would have decided to just leave a day or 2 later, but those flights didn’t look any better. And as it turned out, everyone else had already booked on the Chicago flight, so Washington DC it would be.

I had planned to get on a 1 p.m. flight from Newark to Washington Dulles on Friday afternoon, with an 11 a.m. departure from home. This would leave enough time in the morning for some last minute packing. You may imagine the challenge of packing for a multiple destination trip with variable weather. Although I’m sure vanity is not a yogic virtue, looking professional and smart while teaching a yoga retreat is not too much to ask for. So my suitcase was packed with many different colored yoga tanks.

At 11 p.m. Thursday night I found that all flights from Newark to Washington Dulles were full. All of a sudden my usually flexible mind experienced a brain-freeze: I’d have to get on a 9 a.m. flight to Washington Reagan to make a timely transfer to Washington Dulles through the infamous traffic in the capital. My alarm was set for 4:45 a.m. (Actually I set it for 4:44 a.m. for good luck….)

When I travel, I usually have the ability to ‘turn off’ my sense of time. There is no use in challenging the psyche by telling your body how long you’ve been up, what time it actually is at home, and whether it isn’t long past bedtime. It is a great occasion to practice being in the NOW! This way, my long day from leaving home early in the morning till the moment I actually sat in my seat on the flight to Amsterdam went by in a breeze. I used my time in the airport shuttle (in virtually non-existent traffic in DC) to meditate, and my lunch was well spent by revising some documents for my upcoming retreat. The hour prior to the flight was an example of how my thoughts (“What if there are no seats?” What if I get stuck here?”) have a tremendous impact on how I feel. I felt sick to my stomach and it felt like a rope was pulled tighter and tighter around my neck. I was fully aware if it, which made it amusing (“Is this really how powerful my thoughts are?”) and annoying (“I know better than this” “I just need to take a couple of deep breaths!”) at the same time. And then the release (I literally had to wipe away some tears, hoping that nobody saw) when the gate agent handed me a boarding pass. Oh the joy of traveling! Never a dull moment. And always the reminder: this too shall pass. Just breathe!

To be continued.