While most yogis try to avoid words like “right”, “wrong”, “should”, and “shouldn’t”, Justin Heyman, the founder of Manhattan-based BigFoot Yoga says there is definitely a better way to stay centered and grounded when traveling for business.
Three of the eight disciplines, or limbs, of yoga philosophy tend to dominate most on-the-mat yoga practice – the third limb, Asana (posture), the fourth limb, Pranayama (breath control) and the seventh limb, Dhyana (meditation). But when it comes to frequent flyer yoga enthusiasts, Heyman suggests that “branching out” is key.
“Global business travel provides an excellent opportunity to engage with many of the other vibrant limbs of yoga, in particular, the first limb, Yama (ethical standards), the second limb, Niyama (self-discipline/spiritual observations) and the sixth limb, Dharana (concentration),” says Heyman, adding that the challenge to become a more unified yogi while traveling for business begins the moment you arrive at the airport.
“As humans we occasionally suffer from an engorged sensitivity to our own egos. And nowhere is this flawed human condition more blatantly apparent than at the airport where thousands scurry around and other people are often viewed as objects, or worse yet, obstacles, that form meandering lines and keep us from security, duty free, the gate, and our precious flight,” he says. By embracing Yama’s golden rule-like philosophy, passengers can sometimes change their entire outlook before even boarding the plane.
We all expect a comfortable and peaceful flight, [but] what are each of us truly doing to contribute towards that end? Take heed. Cultivating patience and compassion at the airport is a quest worthy of the most dedicated and compassion-filled yogi. Notice people, be aware and above all, be patient.
Rather than immediately immersing oneself in work or other inflight distractions, Heyman says studying a “sacred scripture” is an excellent way to start and flight and embrace the practice of Svadhyaya, which is a key part of the second limb of yoga, Niyama (self-discipline/spiritual observations).
But whether your idea of a “sacred scripture” is The Bhagavad Gita or watching a Real Housewives marathon on your seatback IFE screen, Heyman says finding your bliss in-flight isn’t strictly relegated to the realm of the cerebral. In fact, Heyman even has a few yoga poses passengers can do while seated, which he calls, appropriately enough, Inflight Flow.
“Once you’ve settled into your flight at cruising altitude it’s time to get your Inflight Flow on,” explains Heyman. If you’re not constrained by an ultra-tight seating configuration, start with a Seated Forward Fold then return to sitting and take gentle twists to the right and left, breathing into the stretch, he suggests. “To strengthen the wrist, hands, arms, and core, push your hands into the armrests for leverage as you bring yourself into a modified Lolasana (pendant pose). Rise to your feet and bend your knees while sitting back into your Utkatasana (chair pose). Return to standing and make your way to the aisle.”
“Vrksasana (tree pose) is an accessible pose for many tight spaces and with a wide enough aisle you may be able to sneak in a Utthita Trikonasana (extended triangle) and a Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) pose. Afterwards take a deep Forward Fold with bent knees. Rise up, walk to the galley, grab a bottle of water from the flight attendant, and head back to your seat.”
Though you might get some strange looks from your seat mates, Heyman says a Loving Kindness Meditation – in which you wish happiness, health, and wisdom upon the people in your row, the cabin, the entire plane, and then the billions of people on the ground below you – should clear any projected negativity and conflict from your mind rather nicely. And speaking of negativity and conflict, Heyman is quick to point out that passengers aren’t the only ones who could benefit from a little Inflight Flow.
“I have a client who works in flight crew training at United and we’ve talked about maybe working on building some kind of a program that flight attendants could use,” says Heyman, adding that stressed-out cabin crews are, not surprisingly, often in more need of balance and calm than the passengers they serve.
Depending on the plane and the layout, cabin crew might have enough space in the galley to do some Forward Folds, some Downward Dogs, or maybe a Tadasana (mountain pose), where you basically just try to stand in a straight line and focus on your breathing. “Anything to just really kind of open themselves up a bit would be good,” says Heyman.
The yogi freely admits that practicing what he preaches while flying is a skill he himself has yet to master entirely, but it is definitely something to aspire to. And aspirational living through yoga is the name of the game at BigFoot Yoga.
“Building on the fusion of mindfulness and business through yoga to achieve work-life balance is mission critical for BigFoot Yoga,” he explains. “I’ve been working in midtown Manhattan for over a decade in the digital marketing arena [and] during that time my regular yoga practice became a solace for me. I was able to create an urban zen within the intensity of the city [and] I realized there were other nine-to-fivers and straphangers who could also benefit. Deep breathing and forming shapes on our yoga mat is fun, but the real challenge of yoga is to take the benefits we cultivate on the mat like balance, harmony, and patience, and extend those qualities off the mat to our regular life.”
Whether you’re jetting around the world for work or commuting from your bed to the living room, Heyman says it’s important to remember that, at the end of the day, we’re all just beings on a journey.
“Yoga gives us access to connect with and be grateful towards the journey of our own perfectly unique being. Life is a vacation from eternity, enjoy it.”
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