Yoga at the Airport

mbg Contributor By Derek Beres
mbg Contributor
Derek Beres is an author, music producer, and yoga & fitness instructor based in Los Angeles.

Yoga in a studio is easy. You arrive and attempt to leave the 'outside' behind, unfurling your mat to deal with the anything-but-quiet of your mind. We inherently know that the 'point' is applying your yoga outside of that studio, yet like Sunday churchgoers who forget their religion's principles during the week's other 167 hours, the real test of the discipline is utilizing those principles in the most unlikely of places. Like the airport.

While you may have thought this was going to be an article about stretches you can do while in that 11' wide seat for two to twenty-two hours (at 6' 4" tall, I've thought about and tried many), I'd rather deal with an even more challenging place to apply your yoga: boarding the plane. Nowhere outside of rush hour Holland Tunnel traffic do people try (and succeed) at being so ineloquent and demanding while microscopically inching forward.

A constant traveler, I've born witness to this fiasco innumerable times. While not widely known (due to faulty Italian translation), Dante placed the airport boarding process in the eighth circle of hell, with only nurses who smoke cigarettes outside of hospital entranceways and Glenn Beck below it. Thing is -- and we all know this -- that plane is not going anywhere until everyone boards. By crowding the imaginary 'line' snaking into the plane, rushing slows things down. The only actual concern anyone actually has is not getting overhead compartment space, which is only really a concern because a select number of 'special' travelers disregard the pleas of only placing one bag there and not using the space for things like jackets.

Airports are the necessary evil of air travel, and most every aspect of them riddles us with anxiety. For too long have I been caught in this monstrosity of human relationships. I've stressed myself out in cab rides en route for this one single process, even more than going through the security checkpoint. Being that the luggage carousel is included in Dante's seventh layer, I always travel carry-on. Worse case scenario is that an attendant gate checks your bag and you receive it as soon upon exiting (another stress-inducing rat race).

This looked to be the case on a recent flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. I had stopped in the desert city to visit my father, and the forty-minute flight to LA was sold out. Tensions were Code Red as everyone travels carry-on here, and it was at that moment I decided to do my yoga. I was in the last group and refused to stress the situation. I'd have to gate check and that was that.

I found my newfound peace enjoyable, watching veins pop out of my fellow traveler's necks as they agonizingly clutched handbags. It was like when I remember to slow down on subway platforms. You notice what an idiot you must look like in that rush to nowhere through the flagrant tendencies of others. I calmly walked onto the plane as the inevitable happened: the attendant announced that overhead space was full. No big deal. My seat would be waiting for me.

The couple crammed in front of me proceeded to turn their heads as if the attendant were not standing right in front of them. As the woman passed, the attendant asked "Excuse me, do you speak English?" She was not being sarcastic; she thought they hadn't understood. The woman turned and laughed. "Of course I speak English." The attendant re-explained, but the woman, her stressed-out husband already well scurried up the aisle, brushed it aside. "Oh, that's ok, we'll check above our seats."

The nonplussed attendant let them pass, then turned to calm and relaxed Derek, a person I was just meeting myself in such a situation. She smiled and looked at my bag, and then said, "You know what, let me check something." She opened two compartments in first class, reconfigured some things, and told me to slide my bag in. I thanked her, walked to my seat and turned on my Kindle. A few moments later, the couple returned to gate check their bags. I contemplated telling them what they had missed while being in such a rush, but each learns in their own time. I've too have sped by simple opportunities in plain sight, a trend that I hope is also behind me.

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