The Plane Truth About Yoga

Yoga offers a number of benefits, including stress reduction and improved fitness. It may also reduce your risk for heart disease, high blood Melvin Durai's Humorpressure and other conditions. Best of all, it allows you to twist your body into various impressive positions, earning you admiration from your friends and family, and perhaps even a recruitment letter from the traveling circus.

One of the major advantages of yoga is that you don’t need any equipment to do it. That means you can do yoga anywhere you go. But please resist the temptation.

Some places are just not meant for yoga. You probably shouldn’t do yoga in a busy restaurant, for example, even if you’ve been waiting too long for your food. A few breathing exercises are fine, but unless you’re eager to get the waiter’s attention, please keep your feet on the ground.

The same applies to a crowded bus, even if putting one foot behind your head allows you to occupy less room. If the bus makes a sudden stop, you may hurt yourself or someone else. The paramedics may have trouble untangling you from yourself.

Trains are also not ideal for yoga, unless you have a compartment to yourself. But even then, you need to be cautious, in case the train makes a sudden stop and sends you rolling, all balled up, into the next life.

Planes are usually too cramped for yoga and your fellow passengers may look at you strangely. Before you attempt anything, please ask the flight attendant if the airline has a policy about in-flight yoga. It may not seem fair, but the in-flight yoga policy is usually quite similar to the in-flight golf and in-flight soccer policies.

If you’re really eager to do yoga while flying, feel free to start a petition. I know at least one man who’d be willing to sign it. His name is baggage-carousel-yogaHyongtae Pae and he recently tried to do yoga during a United Airlines flight from Hawaii to Japan.

Rather than stay in his seat during meal time, the 72-year-old retired farmer from South Korea decided to go to the back of the plane to do yoga and meditate. (This is not too surprising. Most people would rather do yoga than eat airline food.)

When members of the flight crew told Pae to return to his seat, he grew violent, according to an Associated Press report. He allegedly pushed his wife and tried to head-butt and bite some military personnel (U.S. Marines on the flight) who joined the effort to get him back to his seat.

Yes, he was very determined to do yoga. Not many people would fight off the Marines to do yoga, but Pae was ready to take on the entire U.S. armed forces if need be. “I want do yoga! You no stop me do yoga!”

Pae also allegedly threatened to kill his fellow passengers while yelling that God doesn’t exist. The pilot, concerned about safety, had no choice but to turn the plane around and return to Hawaii. “Request to land! Request to land!” he radioed the Honolulu airport. “We have a yoga emergency!”

Pae soon found himself in jail, with enough time and space to do as much yoga as his heart desired.

Prisoners, incidentally, can benefit immensely from yoga. It calms their minds and reduces their stress. But more importantly than that, it greatly enhances their flexibility, allowing them to squeeze through small openings.

According to his attorney, Pae started doing yoga recently to help him deal with anxiety. He was probably feeling a little anxious on the flight – that’s why he wanted to do yoga. But a plane, like a bus, train or car, isn’t an ideal place for yoga. Pae should have perhaps done his yoga and meditation in the airport, before boarding the plane.

Airports usually have plenty of space for yoga. But please be cautious. Even if you have good balance, you probably should stay off the baggage carousel. You never know who might claim you.

Airports also have travelers taking naps in all sorts of unusual positions, so it’s easy to blend into the crowd. Just close your eyes, assume a yoga position, and no one will raise an eyebrow.

But if you happen to be doing yoga with your limbs bent awkwardly, don’t be surprised if a rich traveler tosses a few coins at you.

It’s yet another benefit of doing yoga.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through and You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. When he masters yoga, he will stop vacuuming in corners, because he will have no attachments.

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