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Mile-High Meditation

Off the cushion and on the airplane.

By Sirinder Kaur


On a recent flight from Chicago to San Francisco, I sat on a plane so crowded that I felt like a frog stuffed in a jar. Children kicked my seat from behind and the people around me yakked loudly in a language I didn't understand. In short, I was miserable.

The mainstream yoga poses I found in the in-flight magazine—foot flexes, neck rolls, and shoulder shrugs—helped with the physical tension. But I needed more. I breathed slowly as I searched for an answer.

Eventually, I looked around and silently acknowledged my fellow passengers. As I did so, I realized they might be just as irritated as I was. I thought about the pilot and her skill in flying and decided to be grateful instead of judgmental. As I reflected on these things, I could even appreciate the exuberance of the children behind me.

Then I remembered a Kundalini meditation that involves rhythmically tapping the thumbs and fingers of each hand in the rhythm of "Sa Ta Na Ma," meaning totality, creation, dissolution, regeneration. I combined this with a seated Savasana (Corpse Pose) and, blessedly, began to relax. The payoff was immediate and long lasting.

And a good thing, too: When the plane landed, I was able to stay cool, calm, and polite as I filled out the form to have my lost luggage returned to me.

What You Need
  1. A hat or cap to cover your head and ears for comfort and warmth.
  2. Earplugs or headphones without music.
  3. A blanket or shawl.
  4. A pillow.
  5. A short, positive affirmation or mantra of your choice.
What to Do
  1. Look around and try to appreciate everyone you can see. Add a blessing for those you can't see, like the pilot.
  2. Place the pillow vertically behind your lower head so it extends into the space between your shoulder blades. This moves your chin toward your chest into what's known as Jalandhara Bandha (Chin Lock). Be sure your chest is lifted, not hunched forward or back.
  3. For the seated Savasana, place your hands on your knees with your palms facing up and inhale deeply through your nose. Slowly fill your torso with air, then exhale slowly through your nose, while you mentally scan each part of your body and relax it. Now silently repeat your affirmation as you tap the tips of your index fingers and thumbs together. As you do this, repeat the word Sa, then press the middle fingers to your thumbs with the word Ta. Now bring the ring fingers to the thumbs while saying Na, and lastly touch the little fingers with the thumbs while saying Ma. (You can repeat these words silently instead of out loud.) Do this for two minutes or longer. Try not to fall asleep, but if the urge is overwhelming, stop chanting and continue to breathe deeply until sleep comes.
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Reader Comments


Sa Ta Na Ma," meaning totality, creation, dissolution, regeneration


I am so grateful for this writing. I have had challenges with claustrophobia. I feel confident that practicing this meditation will empower me and grant me great peace. Much thanks!



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