There's that feeling when you either come up into Wheel or Fish or even lie down with a bolster at your back...there's an opening, an expansion. You breathe deeper and feel a sense of love and exhilaration. Oh yes, it's a good feeling. It makes me wonder -- why aren't we always walking around feeling this way (perhaps it makes us feel too vulnerable and exposed?)?
The sad fact is that many of us walk around armored. Our bodies are tight -- on lock-down, almost -- and our emotions follow. Take a walk down a crowded street and notice how some folks are open and friendly (they make eye contact and smile) while others are a bit more closed down (no smile, no eye contact, a certain stiffness/tension in their bodies). If you really want to observe the differences, spend some time in an airport.
Last week I visited Seattle, so I got in some quality airport time. On the way to Seattle, my plane was delayed. First we were told that the plane was delayed due to weather. Then we boarded the plane -- which didn't have functioning air conditioning (and it was a warm day, so you can imagined how that scenario went) -- and deplaned before boarding for a final time and taking off about 3 hours later than expected. Just about everyone on the plane missed their connecting flights, which meant travel delays and flight rebooking (which translated into long lines at the customer service counters). Needless to say, there were a lot of annoyed, closed down people sitting near that boarding gate. Then a funny thing happened.
As we lined up to board the plane the final time, I was approached by a smiling woman who seemed a bit nervous. I've done a lot of bodywork and body-centered practices, so I tend to have more open, approachable countenance, which is probably why she came over to me first (I was one in a long line). She told me that she had just come from some sort of seminar and that her homework required her to hug 20 random people that she encountered on her trip back home. I'm Italian so I loooooove hugs, both giving and receiving. Of course I opened my arms wide to the woman (who looked a tad bit frightened that I was going to accuse her of being a nut job and turn down her generous offer) and said, "Oh, bring it on!" She smiled, laughed out loud in relief (and a little suprise by my enthusiastic response, I think) and we embraced for about 10 seconds -- yep, I held on because let's face it -- who doesn't need a hug after travel drama?
A man was beside her -- he, too, had attended the seminar and had his own homework to do -- and the relief on his face when I hugged his friend was almost comical. He then asked me for a hug, a request which I gladly obliged. I looked at both of them and said that the people on this particular line were in desperate needs of hugs, as they were a bit harrassed over the whole travel debacle that had been unfolding for the past 3 hours. Missing my connection meant that I'd be arriving at my destination at 9:00 PM rather than noon. Yes, that's a 9-hour delay. But you know what...those 10 second hugs made me feel damned good (can you say oxytocin?). I couldn't wipe the smile from my face after that.
It felt like Wheel, Fish, and a supported heart-opening restorative pose all rolled into one. The feeling stayed with me even after boarding the hot -- did I mention the plane had no air conditioning? -- plane and sitting on the tarmack for another 20 minutes. It stayed with me as I stood on a rather long customer service line at my connecting airport. As a result, I actually enjoyed my 7+ hour layover. I chatted with fellow travelers, I explored the airport, I met a fabulous person on my Seattle-bound flight. My travel "disaster" wasn't really all that disastrous. In fact, it was quite pleasant and it turned out to be a great way to kick off my trip.
That's the gift of air travel these days -- you have no control and you never know what's going to happen (which most people consider a bad thing). The only thing you can do is stay open. The minute you close up, you're a goner. Close down and you miss the opportunity to let folks help you, you miss the chance at meeting a new friend, you miss out on the joy of having nowhere to go and nothing to do (although with the advent of Smart Phones and Tablets, eReaders, and MP3 players there's no shortage of stuff to do).
How do you open? It all starts with your body. Consciously relax it. Breathe into tension. Breathe deeply. Perhaps find a private corner and meditate for a bit or do a little dance or shake the tension from your body. If all else fails, ask for a hug. Take it from this hug-loving Italian yoga chick -- it works every time!