Traveling? You Can Practice These 9 Yoga Poses On the Airplane!

Bobbie Jo Traut
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Let’s face it – traveling by airplane is not the most comfortable experience in the world. It’s cramped and crowded. Your knees are constantly knocking into trays and your elbows are fighting for their space on the single serving armrests. Sitting in these cramped conditions takes a big toll on your body, which is why doing yoga poses on the airplane can be such a lifesaver!
 
Sitting for too long without moving can cause swollen ankles, stiff joints, tight hips and low back pain. Although space is limited, flying is really the optimal time to do some yoga. You can practice many of these yoga poses in your chair, and other poses are a great excuse to get up and stretch your legs in the aisle.
 

The Benefits of Practicing Yoga On an Airplane

In addition to swollen ankles, stiff joints, and resulting tightness or pain, flying can make us tired and even weaken our immune system. Yoga increases your blood circulation which helps you avoid tightness and stiffness. Yoga also increases your immune system, as do many forms of Pranayama (which you can incorporate as you practice!).
 
Practicing yoga gives us a natural boost of energy so you can keep jet lag at bay. It also boosts your mood so you can stay happy and positive for your trip ahead. Yoga is a simple way to nourish your body, elevate your energy levels, and help you feel refreshed – who doesn’t want these things when they travel?!
 

Practice these yoga poses and stretches in your seat during your next flight:

This first set of poses and stretches can all be done while you’re in your seat. They don’t need much space and won’t bother your neighbor (though they may motivate the passengers around you to stretch too!)
 

1. Neck Stretches:

While you’re seated, roll the neck gently from side to side, bringing the chin down towards the chest then take it to the right and left. Neck pillows can leave your neck feeling sore, and flying in general always puts pressure on the neck or cervical spine.
 

2. Seated Cat-Cow:

With palms face down on your lap or knees, inhale and pull the chest forward, slightly arching the back. Then exhale, lower the chin and pull your belly button towards your spine. Repeat this as many times as you like. It will keep spinal fluid moving and reduce tension in your lower back.
 

3. Side Bend:

Reach your hands towards the ceiling, interlacing the fingers with palms face up and bend slightly to the right and left, stretching the side body all the way up to the arms (careful to not hit your neighbor or a passing flight attendant). Sideways bending, or lateral flexion, helps to counteract hunching and bad posture and feels oh-so-refreshing when you’ve been crammed in an airplane seat.
 

4. Seated Spinal Twist:

Take your right hand to the outside of your left thigh and look towards your left shoulder, twisting to the left. Then reverse the movement by taking the left hand to your right thigh and twisting to the right. Twists nourish and detoxify the spine and help relieve tension and tightness. These feel amazing when you’ve been sitting for a long time!
 

5. Eagle Arms:

Cross your right arm under your left, crossing at elbows and again at the wrists (or bring your palms to opposite shoulders for a more gentle stretch). Eagle arms will stretch the upper back and shoulders, which can get tight from slumping or sleeping in a chair. Repeat on the other side.
 

 

Now get up and stretch! Practice these yoga poses and stretches standing up during your next flight:

You can wander over to the lavatories or kitchen area and find a small space to practice. On long-haul flights there’s usually room enough for three to four people to stand. You can try the following poses that can be modified when space is restricted:
 

1. Dancer:

This pose will stretch the quadriceps and open the chest and shoulders. Balance will be an extra challenge mid-flight, but hey —you’ve got some time on your hands, so have fun and see what you can do! Repeat on the opposite side.
 

2. Standing Pigeon Pose:

From standing, cross your left ankle onto your right thigh, making a figure four shape with your legs. You can bend the standing leg as deeply as room allows; it will provide a great stretch for the piriformis and gluteal muscles – exactly what your body needs (and wants!) during a long flight. Repeat on the opposite side.
 

3. Tree Pose:

To gently open the hips, do a modified Tree Pose, keeping the ball of the foot against ankle or calf, since you may not have enough room to place the sole of the foot on the inner thigh (but if you do, go for it!). This is another pose that will be a fun challenge for your balance. Repeat on the other side.
 

4. Standing Crescent Moon:

This is the full version of the side bend when you’re seated. From standing, interlace your fingers overhead and extend up and over to the right. You’ll find a deeper side body stretch from the hips all the way to your fingertips. This pose also engages your core so you can build some heat. Repeat on the left side.
 

4. Standing Forward Fold:

While this may seem awkward – who cares?! Try to hinge forward in front of a wall so you’re a bit more conspicuous. A forward fold will stretch your hamstrings and release your lower back. It will also reverse your blood flow which is so important when you’re flying to help increase circulation and get a boost of energy.
 

Do Yoga On Your Next Flight and Feel the Difference at 30,000 Feet!

Though plane flights can be tedious and long, they also carry us to family, friends, work, vacations and new, interesting places— all well worth the hours spent in cramped quarters. Incorporating these yoga poses and stretches will make your next airplane ride a little more comfortable, and definitely help ease the toll that travel takes on your body.
 
Image: tgifguide.com

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Bobbie Jo Traut

Bobbie Jo Traut discovered yoga as a teenager growing up in Alaska. She practiced on a purple mat in her living room, since there were no studios at that time in her small hometown. As a RYT and frequent traveler, she takes every opportunity to roll out her mat. Her most memorable teaching experiences include a hatha practice for humanitarian volunteers on a mountaintop in Nepal and community vinyasa at an arts center in Chisinau, Moldova.

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