Friday, April 6, 2012

3 Ways to Bring Your Spiritual Practice into Daily Living


One of the things that I always find striking when I visit a predominantly Islamic country is the call to prayer.

Five times a day you basically have a reminder to detach from everything that feels oh-so-important right now and reconnect with your spiritual source. Five times a day you have the chance to put into perspective what we’re often too involved in to even think of stepping back from.

The Islamic places where I’ve been have been fairly secular, so I have yet to see anyone actually interrupt their activities to pray, but hearing the calls to prayer have been reminders for me to become conscious of where I am, what I’m doing, and generally, as Eckhart Tolle puts it, being conscious of being conscious.

So I started to think: how can I get something equivalent in my life? Here are three possibilities, in case they speak to you:

  1. Julia Cameron, in her The Artist’s Way book and series has an interesting suggestion: the Morning Pages. This is a mind dump, usually first thing in the morning while we’re still gathering our wits, and which generates a level of self-awareness that has the potential to extend, if not for most of the day, then at least for most of the morning. Of course, we could also sit and meditate first thing in the morning instead, but for those who aren’t conversant in the Noble Art of Doing Nothing, having a way to empty the mind by acknowledging thoughts and releasing them, as it were, onto paper or electronic equivalent, is an easy way to get started and get some of the same effects.

  2. Got your smartphone on you? I bet you do. Got five minutes of waiting time? Or a twenty-minute commute? Instead of checking your friends’ inane Facebook or Twitter updates (ahem!), install an app like Conzentrate (available for Android/ Google Play here or Android/Amazon Store here and for your iPhone/iPad here) and no matter where you are, it will provide a structure for you to meditate (recently improved with your choice of chants, Tibetan bells and more, plus assorted backgrounds that you can “unlock” in a clever game that gives you incentive to meditate longer and more frequently).

  3. Of course, few things beat having a sangha, a spiritual community that you can join for your spiritual practice, but you seldom have the benefit or the luxury of daily gatherings. That being said, though, unless you live in the boonies, Meetup.com is a fabulous source: type your city and your preferred choice of connection, and you might find that in Topeka, Kansas, there too is a lunch-time meditation group just around the corner from your office, or a Buddhist sangha that starts right after work, or any number of other possibilities to connect with kindred souls that bring more spirituality into your life and keep the mindfulness flame alive.

Perhaps a single one of these options might not by itself bring your spiritual practice into daily living in the same sense that the five calls to prayer are meant to do, but a morning mindfulness practice reinforced by the Conzentrate app during the day, followed by connecting with others with similar intentions in a group setting are bound to synergistically support one another.

What other practices would you suggest to anyone looking to bring daily soulfulness into their practice?

Photo credit: Alison007

Friday, February 24, 2012

10 Apps to Propel Your Spiritual Practice

So, you’re a spiritually-inclined type who just shelled out some major cash for the latest smartphone, and you wouldn’t mind finding some Great Spiritual Justification to rationalize what in a harsher light might be seen as your materialistic, acquisitive side.

You’ve come to the right place: I assure you, you and I are in good company. And what better way to justify your technological habit than to put it to use in your quest to become a more enlightened human being?

So, in no particular order, here are ten apps in the category of “If the Buddha Had a Droid”:

1. ConZentrate

Okay, so you keep saying you’d like to have a regular meditation practice… and you’ve been saying that how many years now? But when push comes to shove, you hate to admit that stillness and silence don’t much appeal to your ADD, Twitter-happy nature. Well, download ConZentrate and let it provide both a visual and aural placeholder to keep your mind still for however many minutes you choose. Now your commute becomes your ashram. Find a breathing rhythm to go with the fabulous sound here and in ten minutes (or twenty, or thirty) you’ll be feeling that “I’m mellow and happy just because” high of meditation. If you’re just getting started with meditation, this is your best bet.

Android: http://bit.ly/ww8r57

Iphone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/zwBbUI


2. Meditation Helper

You’re ready to graduate to the big league? Just a chime at the beginning and another one at the end of your meditation? Go for Meditation helper.

Android: http://bit.ly/wxLmmp

iOS: None that I could find, although I was told a long time ago that ZenClock did the same thing for the iPhone.


3. My Life Organized

When you start meditating regularly your priorities typically start to shift. To keep from reverting to conditioned behaviors, try keeping track of your new priorities. My Life Organized gives you a box where you can dump the your thoughts and projects. Then, at the right time, pick and choose what you’re going to do about them, and when, and how.

Android: http://bit.ly/ziw7gP

Iphone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/jv8lPE


4. beOrganized

Is My Life Organized too complex-looking for you and you want something simple, but not quite as simple as Do It Tomorrow? beOrganized hits that sweet spot of simplicity and power. Put it on your main screen as a widget and see your to-do list, automatically backed up and synchronized with your Google calendar. Also, try putting the recording widget on your main screen, speak what it is you want to do (“Meditate for another ten minutes today”), and let the program both transcribe and add it to your Google calendar. When you’ve complete the task, check it off, and see it disappear. Best $2.49 I’ve spent.

Android: http://bit.ly/xKUOjT

Iphone/ipad/iOS: None.

5. Drinking Water

What does drinking water have to do with your spiritual aspirations? Well, what does yoga? It keeps your body healthy, so you can go on to acquire insights and growth without being held back by body issues. This program is not just a way to check off how much water you’ve consumed; it regularly reminds you throughout the day till you’ve filled your daily quota… and then gives you an ovation when you’ve done it.

Android: http://bit.ly/j3Gs7Z

Iphone/ipad/iOS: None, but there’s an equivalent free app, Waterlogged: http://bit.ly/phBNVg

6. Eckhart Tolle Quotes

Back twenty years ago, I was into the Indian philosopher Krishnamurti. I still am, but I find Eckhart Tolle (of The Power of Now and A New Earth fame) just as profound and far more accessible. A smattering of quotes from him when I’m otherwise less than inspired is just a finger tap away, thanks to this app.

Android: http://bit.ly/Ag5R1r

Iphone/ipad/iOS: No free applications available

7. Tao Te Ching

Does this need any description? This Chinese classic is one of the most translated works in world literature and a single phrase can make you ponder for hours. And it’s now in your pocket.

Android: http://bit.ly/yiU14G

Iphone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/cks5YO

8. Rumi quotes

The 13th-century Persian poet and mystic will remind you, among other things, that “Your task is not to seek love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

Android: http://bit.ly/zQNSOn

Iphone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/yV98Mw

9. Hafiz quotes

I’d love to find a Hafiz (also spelled Hafez) app for Android or iPhone, because he has the lyrical quality of Rumi plus Robin Williams thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, none of the apps for either operating system do justice. The best I can suggest is an instant download of “Hafiz: The Scent of Light” and playing it on your iPhone or Android. It’s miles above anything else I’ve been able to find.

Android or iPhone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/z5TTU5

10. Kiva

How can an app to facilitate you funding microloans to small, often single-owner businesses in theThird Worldhelp you on your spiritual path? The question is, how can it not? Anything that takes you out of your own world and opens you up to altruism and learning about other people’s lives, struggles and successes not only dwindles your perception of your own problems, but increases your humanity and makes the world a much smaller, friendlier place.

Android: http://bit.ly/AicPrz

Iphone/ipad/iOS: http://bit.ly/nsYxaw


So there—you can now feel that the beaucoup bucks spent on tech toys are going for a good cause… your betterment, right?

What apps do you think should be on this list? Please share your ideas below.

Photo Credit: Ubermoe

Friday, February 10, 2012

If the Buddha Did New Years' Resolutions (the Twelvefold Path)


My guess is if the Buddha did New Years’ Resolutions, the Four Noble Truths would’ve looked like this:

1. In life there is time-wasting

2. The origin of time-wasting is unconsciousness

3. To stop being unconscious you must know what you want and what you don’t want (duh!)

4. To know what you want and what you don’t want, walk the noble twelvefold path:

  1. Focus on the main thing. If you don’t really know what the main thing is, first identify what you don’t want. From there, finding what you do want is a mere hop over the brain synapses. But be sure it’s the real goal. For instance, publishing a book to be read by a hundred thousand people isn’t the goal: affecting them is. Differentiate and conquer.

  1. Know and use your resources. They’re everything from inquisitively helpful friends to inquisitively helpful coaches (in case you have more cash than friends) to books like Get-It-Done Guy's 9 Steps to Work Less and Do More (in case you lack both)—and that’s just to get started. Whenever there’s a stuck point, ask, “What resources could I call upon to bypass this?”

  1. Know why you want it. Regularly connecting emotionally with the reasons for doing something keeps it from fading into the background of distractions. If I want to build the 7 best pearl-studded catamarans in the world with a pink monkey logo, I need to review from time to time: how the hell does that reflect who I am? Does that kind of stuff really make me better? Why in the world does it fulfill a sense of purpose? What could it possibly do for others as well as for me?

  1. Sleep well. If you don’t have high energy, guess what? Vegging out in front of the tube is going to win out every time you think of picking up your goal. Foremost in maintaining high energy is the sleep habit. Night owls, don’t shoot me—I’m just the messenger. But Ayurvedic medicine (and now endocrinology) says that when we sleep is just as important of how long we sleep. The when is from before 10 p.m. to before 6 a.m. The how long varies from person to person and maybe from season to season. 7.5 hours is about the right time for some; others range from 5 to 9 hours. Experiment till you awaken feeling rested and refreshed daily.

  1. Exercise regularly. I know I’m sounding like your mom (assuming she exercises—mine didn’t!) but this is the second part of maintaining high energy. Keep it simple: exercise is whatever you enjoy doing (‘cause otherwise your motivation will vanish) on a regular enough basis that makes your body feel good.

  1. Be aware of how you sit and how breathe. Why is this important? Because as any yoga teacher (me) will tell you, if you sit for a long time slouching and breathing shallow, the high-energy benefits of good sleep and good exercise disappear quickly. If you can’t remember to do it, get a kitchen timer (or one of those programs that freeze your computer at a set time) and take a five minute break every 15 minutes. Yes, your productivity will go down the drain, but your productivity elsewhere will skyrocket. Folding that laundry? 5 minutes. Emptying the dishwasher? 5 minutes. Taking out the recycling? 5 minutes. Think of the possibilities!

  1. Develop a drinking habit. No, no—not that kind of drinking habit. I mean the studies that say drink 8 glasses of water a day—you know, the ones everybody quotes and nobody follows? Forget about them. Drink a gallon of water a day (that’s about 4 liters for you metrically inclined), and watch your skin glow, your lips never dry out, and your innards work with the regularity of a Swiss watch. How can you possibly down a gallon a day? 1 quart (liter) upon waking up, 1 quart (liter) straddling breakfast, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the morning, 1 quart (liter) sipped throughout the afternoon. Stop then, otherwise you’ll be up all night emulating mythological figures in European water fountains.

  1. Eat more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Preferably prepared by you, so you know all the ingredients and make them good. If you prepare everything ahead of time, when you’re hungry you can reach for something pre-made, tasty and nutritious. If this sounds like blah blah blah, think of the freedom it gives you to focus on your goal. (Unless your goal is eating better. Don’t eat twice in that case.)

  1. Make your surroundings beautiful. We’re not talking Feng Shui here. Just harmonious, which means your main goal won’t get diluted by the stacks of crap all over the place, or the further crap you packed away in overstuffed closets. Think of it this way: if you run the hundred-yard dash against people running the hundred-yard hurdles, don’t you think you’ve got quite the advantage? Simplicity, harmony, beauty are the means to remove the hurdles on the way to the finish line of The Important.

  1. Make sure you do things regularly that make you happy. What do you do to keep yourself happy? Hike an urban Grand Canyon? Partake in ballet in your gym socks? Be a mystery shopper at toy stores? Groom camels? Sweat between the linens? Engage in recreational baptism? Welcome neural make-believe? Stare at book-bound pictures? Surround yourself with shouting kids in exciting, gaudy places? Whatever it takes, your emotional environment is like a garden that needs frequent watering, ‘cause if you ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Which begs two corollaries: 1. Fill your life with people who make you happy. And 2. Get rid of those who don’t make you happy. There. That was easy.

  1. Have daily time for introspection. God knows we wouldn’t want to call it meditation, right? Because you “don’t know” how to meditate, or it doesn’t sound “fun.” So call it reflecting, or journaling, or being still. Most people are wiser than we give them credit for. Here’s our chance to tap into that wisdom (20-30 minutes a day) that will pay handsome dividends in the achieving our goals department.

And finally…

  1. Draw up a list of your distractions. It doesn’t matter if I pick the right goal, exercise and sleep well and do all the things that make me happy: if my life is buried under internet, environmental or consumerist distractions I’m not going to accomplish diddly-squat. A brutally honest list of my time leaks helps me become conscious of the shape of my time-wasting. That list would have to include all those so-called news items begging to be clicked on when I check my email, or all the crap I bought on- and offline only to realize I didn’t need it, or whatever other garden-variety addictions sap my time. And let’s not even get started about social media. Hey, click on the “recommend this” so your Facebook friends can read it. :-)

All right, so maybe the Buddha wouldn’t have said any of the above things (he’s more of a “Do a little and accomplish a lot; do nothing and accomplish everything” kind of guy), but while we’re on our way to those lofty heights, why not use something as ridiculous as new years’ resolutions (or our current forgetfulness of them) to get us farther along our path?

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Perky Holiday Letters, Yogic New Years’ Resolutions, and Valentine's Day


Does anybody ever read those impossibly happy holiday letters that friends and family send out?

You know, the ones that say,

"Dear Friends, We had a great year! John got promoted to VP at the bank, Mary’s online business grew like gangbusters, junior is at the top of his little league baseball team and won his school’s spelling bee, we’re remodeling our kitchen with John’s Christmas bonus, and here’s a picture of us having loads of fun in Bermuda last August."

Don’t these letters/emails always seem a little too… perky?

Once, just once, I want to receive a letter that says,

"Dear Friends, This year I broke my stupid toe in the same place as the last three times. I was out of commission for two months and when I went back to work I found out they gave my job to someone with the IQ of a gnat. In other news, after twelve years of marital bickering, my wife eloped with the butcher from the Safeway store down the street. Also, my five-year-old was expelled from kindergarten for Googling something I’d rather not tell you about. Oh, and remember the retaining wall that’s been a source of arguments with the neighbors for the last few years? It’s turned into a nasty lawsuit that has everyone in a six-mile radius shouting at each other."

Wouldn’t this be a refreshing holiday letter, a little closer to real life? I think so.

So along with these holiday letters comes that other time-tested tradition, New Years’ Resolutions. New Years’ Resolutions is why all my yoga classes are filled to capacity this January and every single January I’ve been teaching for the last fifteen years. Who of us hasn’t vowed, “I’m going to work off all the lard accumulated during the holidays!”; or “It’s time to resume the yoga practice I ditched for family gatherings, Christmas shopping, wrapping gifts and composing upbeat holiday letters”? We all have. And I’m just like everybody else. I’m even re-reading Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People to help with my New Years’ Resolutions. (I want to write a companion volume, The Seven Million Habits of Highly Ineffective Dolts, a book I am very qualified to author.)

So, yoga in January: I try to go gentle on the newcomers, I really do; but despite my best intentions, they soon discover that along with enthusiasm, it requires a little commitment. And if their spouse or their date doesn’t tell them how good they look by Valentine’s Day… it’s over for the newcomers till next January. Yep, February 15 each year marks the date when yoga class attendance drops back to its usual levels.

So, how can I help the great bare-footed masses stay committed to their yoga practice beyond the first six weeks of the year? Could I just announce on February 14th, “Surprise! Today’s not Valentine’s – it’s actually January 1st! The entire world just pulled a fast one on you!”? Mmmm. Methinks not. Even if it worked, at best it’d last just six more weeks... till the new Valentine’s Day.

No, I need to be realistic and come up with a solution that is far more long-term and far more motivational. All you yoga teachers out there, feel free to copy this idea and fine-tune it. Ready?

Here’s my plan: on Valentine’s Day I will get everyone in my classes to write their Christmas letters. Not the ones they neglected to send out last December: the ones they’re going to send at the end of this year! They’re going to talk about their lives in the past tense with the same hyperbolic exaggerations and happy-happy-happy phrases reserved for this type of epistle. Then, before the class is over, we’re going to the closest mailbox or internet access point, and we’re sending them all out! Not in December: now.

This will accomplish two things: (1) Their friends and family will actually read the letters, and read them closely and critically, since they’re not buried under many such other Pollyanna-esque messages; and (2) my students will get calls, emails and text messages from every single person on their list, wondering how they accomplished so much in just six weeks. My students will have no choice but to continue to come to yoga so they can keep up the fa├žade of their accomplishments in strength, flexibility, balance, peace of mind, and open-heartedness.

Who said hyperbole, exaggeration and vanity couldn’t be put to good spiritual use?


Photo Credit: Vicky TGAW

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


As a sort of self-help followup of a previous article I wrote, Yoga for Your Eyes, I thought I'd compile a quick-and-dirty set of rules for keeping your eyes healthy.

The below are courtesy of Drs. Michael Rozen and Mehmet Oz, in "You: The Owner's Manual"

  1. Drink 8 glasses of water daily, more if you also drink coffee.
  2. Minimum of 5 hours of sleep per night (though 7 or 8 are better for most people's better health)
  3. Take ten minute breaks for every two hours in front of a computer (though personally, I'd prefer to take 2 hour breaks for every ten minutes in front of the computer)
  4. Computer screen always below eye level to keep opening between lids small and prevent dry eye
  5. Eat lutein, which can be optained from spinach and dark leafy vegetables. (A good reason for a salad a day.)
  6. Take vitamin c and bioflavonoids through food sources: oats, onions, broccoli, tomatoes, apples, cranberries, strawberries, green tea, and juices – tomato, grape, cranberry
  7. Take fish oil / omega 3 oils. DHA is the ultimate form of omega 3s on humans. 500mg a day has been found to prevent macular degeneration.
  8. If you are on the brink of macular degeneration, patients have responded well to this cocktail of supplements : daily 500mg of vitamin C; 400 IU vitamin E; 15mg of beta carotene; 80 mg. of zinc; 2 mg of coppe -- all of these spaced out in various doses during the day.

All of this might seem a lot to do, but it reminds me of the poster my English teacher used to have in his class, back when I was in tenth grade: "Think education is expensive? Tray ignorance." So, likewise... "Think doing all these things daily for your eyes is a drag? Try blindness."

Actually, I hope none of us ever tries blindness...


Photo credit: Ibrahim Iujaz

Friday, May 27, 2011

Extra! Extra! Yoga teacher smoked as an eight year old! Read all about it!


Yes, I started smoking when I was eight years old.

As a future yoga teacher, it’s not as if I didn’t know that smoking was bad for you, it’s just that I grew up in Spain, where smoking is so endemic that not too long ago they had an anti-smoking campaign aimed at doctors so they could quit and have the moral authority to advise their patients to do the same. Anyway, one day in my tender childhood, my best friend and I found a still-lit, still unfinished cigarette smoldering in the dirt. We picked it up and took turns smoking it. How very appealing, right? Well, from a health standpoint, sharing a cigarette that’s been on the ground is nothing compared to what’s actually in a cigarette, so if smoking didn’t kill me, neither did the germs in the cigarette butt. And the fact was, once I started, as a crafty and resourceful eight-year-old (the part about tender childhood was smoke and mirrors), I had no difficulty finding sources of unused cigarettes, even if that involved stealing a couple here and there from a visiting older cousin’s stash.

I don’t remember if cigarette boxes had warning labels in those days; if they did, they obviously failed to make an impression on me. Maybe they were as inane as this one, which, seems to be the most common warning I’ve come across through the years:


Now, if you’re a male, how effective a deterrent is that? Or if you’re a female and not planning on getting pregnant? Wouldn’t your reaction be “Hell, this doesn’t apply to me! I can smoke all I want!” Or the other very common one, “Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.” Don’t you feel like exclaiming, “Yeah? So?”

I can’t say whether I would’ve quit smoking (or never started) had there been more memorable labels, but a couple of months ago I was visiting Portugal, and started taking photos of warning labels that, had I seen them as a kid, would’ve most likely have prevented me from starting.

Take this one, for instance:




It reads, “Protect children: don’t force them to breathe your smoke.”

I’d like to have shown that to the smokers in the Spain of those days. Bars, restaurants, parks, homes – everywhere you went there was no dearth of smoke or kids inhaling it. Even before studies came out on the effects of second-hand smoke, I don’t think it takes a genius to figure out that a room full of smoke isn’t exactly pristine mountain air. The coughing gives it away, really.

It’s a message that’s emphasized in this other warning:


“Smoking severely harms your health and the health of those around you.”

US warning labels are tiny, a fact no doubt reflecting the bullying power of tobacco companies and the reluctance of lawmakers to resist them and do what is right. By contrast, check the size of this label relative to the box:


“Smoking causes a high level of addiction. Don’t start smoking.”

That size label does really grab you by the throat, if you’ll pardon the pun. Even if it seems a little strange to find it in a box of smokes that you bought… since if you’re buying it, my guess is that it’s kind of late not to start smoking.

And, I have to say, the following reads more like a chemistry textbook than a warning label:


“Cigarette smoke contains benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde, and hydrogen cyanide.”

Excuse me while I pull out my eleventh-grade chemistry notes to figure out what nitrosamines are and why I should care. And is hydrogen cyanide the same thing as plain old cyanide? Or is it a kinder, gentler thing?

Other labels are a little more compelling. I know they would’ve lowered my chances of smoking:



“Smoking blocks arteries and provokes strokes and heart attacks.” Hm. I dare say that cool, suave, sexy guy blowing some smoke doesn’t look so cool, suave and sexy if the right side of his body is paralyzed post-stroke.

Or how about:



“Smokers die prematurely.”

Definitely in the “not mincing our words” category. Or, better yet:




“Smoking can cause a slow and painful death.”

Wow. Images of Mafiosi saying, “Ya shouldn’ta had that smoke, Vinny. Ya pissed off the boss. We gonna make ya die a slow, painful death.”

Of course, then there’s the atom bomb of messages –



“Smoking kills.”

It’s interesting in that you’d assume that with something as damning as that, people would just not buy the box. Or maybe say, “Hey, can you give me the box to the left instead, the one that says, ‘Cigarette smoke contains cyanide?’ I like that one better.”

Alas, a study was done that suggests that “Smoking kills” is a message that actually backfires in terms of effectiveness – maybe because when you’re young and stupid, death is a pretty remote concept, so it doesn’t mean anything to you.

On the other hand, here’s something you do care about when you’re young and stupid (or mature and wise): impotence. There’s nothing sexy about that. So this may in fact be the best visual



from http://cltampa.com/dailyloaf/archives/2010/08/24/study-smoking-and-impotence

Yet, perhaps the most compassionate label is one that doesn’t get in your face about the harm of smoking, and just aims to be helpful:



“Your doctor or your pharmacist can help you stop smoking.”

As for me, I’m lucky to report that my career as a young, impressionable smoker came to a quick end two weeks after my taking up the vice: not only did I hate getting (my own) smoke in my eyes, but more importantly, after two weeks of coming home to my staunchly nonsmoking father, I started to run out of plausible lies as to why my clothes smelled like tobacco.

Thank God for that, because today I’d be hard pressed to explain why I’d step out of the yoga studio to relax with a cigarette while everyone else was relaxing in shavasana.

Main picture credit ("Fumar Mata"): Matt Doughty

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yoga In an Airplane

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen – this is the captain speaking, and on behalf of the flight crew and everyone at Reunited Airways, I’d like to apologize again for the delay in departing.

I know you’re all feeling a little antsy, but unless you must use the lavatories, please remain in your seats with your seatbelt firmly fastened. Word from the ground crew is that they should have the wheel replaced in about twenty minutes and we then should be under way. With some tailwind and a miracle or two, we might recover five or so of the ninety minutes we’ve spent here.


While we’re waiting, and since we’ve already attempted to distract you with the video on the safety features of this aircraft, I’d like to direct your attention to the yoga stretches we’re now showing on your screen. Your comfort during our flight is a top concern at Reunited, even though we do pack you in like anorexic sardines. Let me assure you that our competitors designed your seat to fit a slim eight-year-old girl just as much as we did. But perhaps you can close your eyes for a moment and connect with how your body felt at that age instead of fretting that the bulge from the person on either side of you is encroaching on about half of your personal space. If you’re in first class, on the other hand, feel free to let it all hang out, knowing that you’re entitled to that experience on account of paying twice one of the main cabin seats. That, or you qualified for an upgrade because you’ve been flying with us since before World War I.

I also realize there may be a few kids crying in your general vicinity – we can hear them up in the cockpit – but if you look at your monitor and follow the stretching instructions, you will be able to forget them and have a more enjoyable flight this afternoon. Now, I know that the soothing nature images and wide-open spaces featured in our program are about as realistic in your cramped personal space as those car commercials where you drive through a wide open road instead of smog and gridlock traffic, and on behalf of myself and the flight crew, I’d like to say that we empathize. We ourselves wish we had space for a ping-pong table in the cockpit, but as the folks in first class know, we’ve all learned to make some compromises in life.

Please pay close attention to the part in the video about stretching your legs. You may have your bag stowed below the seat in front of you because the jerk to your left hogged up the overhead-bin space by the time you made it to your seat on row 48, so if you’re flexible enough, you might want to stretch your legs instead by placing one at a time on the headrest of the person in front of you. Just be sure to do that with your seatbelt strapped on, in case of any sudden turbulence. Also, please note in our video the importance of getting up to walk – as depicted somewhat unrealistically in treading through a sandy beach or a log across a river. Maybe you’re going on vacation and you can do that when you get to your destination – otherwise, if every one of the two hundred people aboard this aircraft starts walking around, there’s no way to keep this from turning into a circus. But if you don’t walk around, please know that Reunited Airways can’t be responsible for any instances of deep-vein thrombosis or anything else that might compromise your health or safety. We’re all adults here – well, except for the kids crying near you – so we must exercise personal responsibility.

Speaking of personal responsibility, you should now be seeing on your screen the part about eating and drinking sensibly, a concept not just taken from yoga but from years of flying. You’ll be happy to know that by keeping your food and drinks to a minimum, we’ve managed to care of this for you, unless you brought your own rations or would like to purchase the wine and spirits featured in the inflight magazine located in the seat compartment in front of you. Incidentally, you might appreciate that we priced these duty-free items in euros or British pounds so those of you holding American pesos – I mean, American dollars – won’t experience sticker shock before you’ve charged your purchase. So, do drink sensibly, ladies and gentlemen, and eat sensibly, even though we do admittedly come up with some unconventional food combinations like chicken pasta with a tangerine salad and caramel-covered saltine crackers with high-fructose rice pudding that will give the air fresheners in our lavatories a run for their money. Those of you who choose to stand and stretch near the back of the aircraft or whose seats are located near the lavatories will soon know exactly what I mean.

Speaking of stretching, I know that you can do the part about turning your neck this way and that way and shrugging your shoulders a few times, even though speaking for myself and not for Reunited Airways, I don’t see what good that does when you’re caved in and compressed on both sides for nine hours straight. Just remember that if you don’t feel like your seat was designed to provide any lumbar support, you can always use your blanket to prop up your low back. We only have three extra blankets somewhere in first class, so if you do use your blanket for lumbar support, please bear in mind you might shiver once the main cabin temperature starts to drop. Alternately, you can forego lumbar support and be warm, but be sure to see your chiropractor soon after your flight to correct your newly-acquired simian gait. Remember, whether you’re flying with Reunited or any of our competitors, you should always factor the price of a couple of chiropractic adjustments into your travel budget.

Lastly, you may have seen in our safety video the part about exiting the plane onto the inflatable rafts in case of an emergency water landing. My superiors might not like me to say this, but unless you’re on a seaplane (and obviously this isn’t one) we’re about as likely to land and float in water as a lead balloon. But that’s not the part I wanted to draw your attention to. It’s the position you should take in the unlikely event of an emergency. As you saw on the video or in the safety instruction card in the pocket in front of you, you lean forward with your head resting on the front seat. My guess is that Reunited created the video and the card before we decided to cram in a few extra seats, because you need to be the size of that slender eight-year-old girl or suffer from congenital dwarfism to have the space to even remotely replicate the position portrayed in the video or card. Our passengers in first class need not worry about this and are advised to have their forearms across their chest like beatific nuns, which, granted, looks about as protective in a real emergency as an airbag made out of cotton candy. But observe in the video how peaceful they look with their arms crossed when they jump onto the inflatable rafts.

So, please continue to enjoy whatever yoga stretches you can do, knowing that it’s not so much about the physical experience as the peaceful feeling you’ll get from the yoga.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we’ve gotten the all-clear now, so if you’re up and about, please return to your seats and fasten your seatbelts. Cabin crew, prepare for take-off. And do something about those bathrooms, for God’s sakes. We haven’t even served any food yet and I can already smell them from up here.


Picture credit: (a)artwork (traveling)