Let’s face it—flying can be tough on your body. The dehydration, the small, crammed seats (even in first or business class), the inability to move freely. These are just a few reasons why once you land you can feel stiff, sore, exhausted and out of sorts. But there is help in the way of rejuvenating, body-healing yoga poses. We enlisted the help of yoga guru Ryan Leier (Global Yoga Ambassador with lululemon and Founder of One Yoga) to give us some easy-to-do yoga moves for the airplane. Here are his top tips.
“When we travel on airplanes we experience stiffness, dehydration, lethargy and spinal compression. Practising a few simple mid-flight postures and drinking lots of water will prevent jet lag, increase mental clarity and energy levels, improve circulation, and help with anxiety, making flying a much more relaxing and comfortable experience,” explains Leier.
“For all of these poses, stay alert and calm by setting your eyes on one point softly (called your Drishti) and keep a sweet flow of breath that sounds like waves coming on to shore or the hissing of a cobra (Ujjayi breathing). Take long, smooth, slow and deep inhalations and exhalations while lightly engaging your lower abdominals to stabilize your base and lift energy upwards.”
To begin, find a comfortable seated pose: either Egyptian, Vajrasana (cross-legged pose) or Sukhasana (easy pose). These poses strengthen your back and calm the mind. Some tips to make sure your seated pose is correct:
• Ground down through foundation of pose: sitting bones, legs and feet
• Organize rib cage right over pelvis
• Lift the chest up and widen the back of the body
• Relax the face, the temples, the jaw, the tongue and the contents of the brain
• Get head, neck and trunk in alignment
Pose #1: Urdhva Baddhanguliyasana or, more simply, Urdhva Hastasana (Arms Raised)
This pose is great for stretching shoulders and lower belly while relieving mild anxiety.
• Ground down through foundation of pose: your sitting bones, legs and feet
• Interlace fingers and press palms away from you
• Stabilize lower abdominals and softly draw them towards spine on exhale
• Keep front ribs softly into the body
• Extend arms fully to lengthen spine
• 3-6 breaths and switch clasp of hands
Pose #2: Modified Garunasana (Eagle Arms)
This pose stretches shoulders and upper back while also improving concentration.
• Wrap right arm under left
• Lift elbows and press wrists into each other
• Widen upper back and relax shoulders
• 3-6 breaths and switch sides
Pose #3: Parivitta Sukhasana (Spinal Twist)
This pose gives relief to the spine and improves digestion.
• Take right hand across left thigh
• Look over left shoulder
• Soften belly and twist
• Lift rib cage on each inhale, softly deepen twist on each exhale
• Take 3-6 breaths and gently switch sides
Pose #4: Paschimottanasana (Forward Bend: option to keep elbows on back of chair)
This pose relieves mild depression and stress, improves digestion, calms the brain and helps with headaches.
• Set feet hip distance or wider
• Keeping the spine long, use the inhale to lengthen the spine further and use the exhale to lift navel and fold forward
• If not enough room for torso in the seat in front of you, take elbows carefully to chair headrest in front of you
• Lengthen the spine on each inhale, lift navel and go forward on each exhale
• Relax deeply with each outgoing breath
• Hold this pose for 6-12 breaths
Pose #5: Seated pose with deep breathing pranayama once again (same as first pose)
This pose will calm the mind and help with concentration.
• Organize pelvis under rib cage
• Lift muscles along pelvic floor
• Stabilize lower abdominal region
• Lift back of skull and take chin to chest
• Keep spine alert and lifted
• Take 6-12 deep Ujjayi (same as beginning) breaths
Final Pose: Seated Savasana
Quiets the mind, reduces fatigue and relaxes body
• Take seat back as far as possible without bothering the passenger behind you
• Close and rest eyes, letting them descend into your skull
• Consciously relax from temples and forehead right down to the soles of the feet
• Allow body to breathe naturally and completely rest