Ever feel like one single airplane ride takes away many of the hours of yoga practice you’ve accumulated in your body? Given our love for international travel and constant exploration, our team here at The Travel Yogi definitely understands the feeling! We’ve got a few tips for yoga while traveling to help you feel rested and ready to begin your adventure after your flight.
Practice yin yoga in the week before your flight.
Unlike flow yoga, yin is a deep meditative style that focuses on deep stretching and relaxation. A day spent in the airport is enough to challenge even the most patient person, so yin yoga (or restorative yoga if you would like a practice more focused on relaxation) in the days leading up to your trip can help soothe your body and mind to prepare for any new stress you may encounter as you travel. Yin is also more focused on deep muscle stretching, so can help offset some of the tightness and discomfort you may experience from a day in an airplane seat.
Use your plane seat as your temple.
Sometimes, just changing your attitude can take you to a new place in your body and mind. Rather than feeling “trapped” in your seat, think about this: you have the next 3, 5, 15 hours with no cell phone calls, no laundry, no emails (as long as you avoid the wifi on the plane), no dishes and no cooking. Maybe use this time to deepen your meditation practice – crying babies in close proximity allow for the greatest challenge of all, indulge in that book that has been sitting on your nightstand for weeks or build your “Sangha” or community as you take some time to get to know the passengers seated around you.
Practice yoga while you fly.
Bring the heel of your right foot to the top of your left knee. Flex the foot strongly. You should start to feel a stretch in the outer right thigh. If you’re not feeling it, begin to walk the left leg closer to the body. Stretching the outer hip can release the S.I. joint in the low back – a common source of pain while traveling! Hold for 2 to 5 minutes. Repeat on side 2.
Cat & cow:
Okay, this one may only be comfortable if you know your seat-mate 🙂 Sitting up tall in your chair, inhale, arching the back forward, opening the chest and gazing up. Hold the breath in. Exhale, roll the shoulders forward, press through the spine like an angry cat, arch the back the opposite direction, and bring the chin to the chest. Continue this movement for as long as you’d like. Cat & cow pulses help lubricate the spine, keeping it soft and flexible despite prolonged sitting.
No fancy word for this one. Simply sit up tall, release your head toward the right shoulder, and relax. After a minute or two, feel free to place the right hand at the nape of the neck, using gravity to stretch the left side of your neck even more (no need to pull on the head). You may begin to tilt the chin more toward the center of your chest to stretch the back of the neck. Roll the neck from side to side, then relax into side 2.
If you feel comfortable in double pigeon or lotus pose, take one of these postures right in your seat. This helps change the position of the hips, preventing the hip flexors from getting tight. Otherwise, remain seated with the feet grounded. Lightly tuck the pelvis back so you feel grounded on your sit bones. This will take your back slightly away from the back of the plane seat. Travelers tip: use your neck pillow here for lumbar support. Release the shoulders away from the ears, rolling them back. Place the hands palms up in the folds of the hips. And AHHHHH – meditate! If it helps, have a guided meditation prepped on your iPod.
Once you land, go to work reversing the posture you’ve spent so many hours in. Our travel yogi Annie Carpenter, to the left, may be an extreme example of airport yoga, but you can use legs up the wall pose to heal sore joints. Use dragon pose to stretch out the front of the hips, which may be tight from prolonged sitting. Use child’s pose to release and lengthen the lower back. And, when all else fails, savasana time! Let the body rest, recover and heal itself so that you’re ready to explore.