I recently flew from San Francisco to Indianapolis by way of Denver to be home for the holidays. Long story short, I found myself stuck in the Denver airport for an unexpectedly long layover.
Three hours in an airport can be a very long time, especially when you just want to get home and you look at the clock and have that sinking moment of realization that you “would have been home by now”. Patience seems to leave with the lucky ones who are boarding their on-time flights and irritation saddles right up next to me as a travel companion.
My standard operating procedure during layovers is to walk and walk and walk, doing virtual laps in the terminals. Then when my carry-ons get too heavy to carry anymore I find a comfortable and reasonably clean place to do a little bit of yoga. Just some basic poses like double pigeon, forward folds, natarajasana, and some twists (see my previous article “The Trifecta of Airport Asanas”). Usually this is all I need to stay on the more agreeable side of things.
But, this layover was different. I was tired and just over it. The holiday spirit was all around me, but I was feeling every part of bah humbug. I knew I needed to do something to shake it up and shake myself out of this mood. I needed to move my whole body and I needed to move forwards and backwards and side to side, and, more importantly, I needed to really breathe. I needed to get out of the frenzy of frenetic holiday travelers, to quiet the sharp sounds of overhead announcements and to restore a bit of equanimity to my body and my mind. I needed to hit the reset button.
So, I found a relatively quiet place in the Denver airport, took off my shoes and started to practice. I thought I would just move through a few sun salutations, but the next thing I knew it was 45 minutes later and I had completed a pretty comprehensive practice. I even did bakasana! Did people stare? Indeed, they did. Did moments of insecurity creep in? For sure. Did it really matter? Not at all. Because when I was finished, I felt lighter, yet more grounded and stable. The creakiness and crankiness that can sometimes accompany me in travel were replaced with a sense of fluidity, suppleness and freedom. I was calm, relaxed and actually felt joyful. Simply stated, I felt better.
Simply stated, I was better. I was able to return to the chaos of the world around me a better version of myself. Instead of being bugged by the litany of varied and over-lapping noises, I allowed myself to notice the individual sounds of people talking to their loved ones, kids laughing as they ran down the human conveyor belts, the young man in his Air Force uniform who was singing and playing his guitar, the kindness of strangers offering their seats and pieces of pizza to each other. Instead of just feeling surrounded by a sea of weary travelers, I allowed myself to notice the faces of individual people and to imagine the unique stories and circumstances that brought us all together in the same place at the same time. I imagined children going to visit their grandparents for the holidays, the reunion of lovers who live far away from each other, and the numerous military personnel being reunited with their families that they had not seen for way too long. The world in terminal C was exactly the same as it had been before I started the first sun salutation, I was just able to see it differently after a little bit of asana and a whole lot of breath wiped the fog from my eyes.
Yoga is everywhere and can be anywhere. It doesn’t just exist in studios or even in the privacy of your own home. It is always there whenever you need to hit the reset button. The physical practice of moving the body forwards and backwards and side to side and connecting to the breath is just the beginning of the real practice that continues as we step off of the mat and back into the world. Remember that you can take your yoga with you wherever you are traveling this holiday season.
Tips for the Terminal: Airport Asana