There’s nothing quite like the thrill of touching down in a new country. But if your current career requires frequent flying for meetings or your wanderlust has transformed you into a bonafide digital nomad, you might feel like you spend more time miles above the sea than on the ground. When you spend so much time in a cramped means of transportation, staying active becomes that much more important. Show your body a bit of traveling TLC with carefully crafted airplane yoga moves designed for small spaces. Keep reading to learn the benefits of practicing yoga in the sky. Then try some airplane yoga moves on your next in-flight venture.
Why should we practice airplane yoga?
Does the idea of a yoga sequence in the aisle feel like, um, a stretch? That’s the point. The more we extend and rotate our limbs in the friendly skies, the happier and healthier our body will feel. You may already know that your risk of developing blood clots is higher on flights lasting more than eight hours. But there are also quite a few other physical side effects of jet-setting.
According to yoga expert Jolie Manza, high altitudes cause our bodies to absorb less oxygen, which is why you may feel faint, dizzy, or develop a headache on flights. Flying also causes gas levels in your body to expand. This is why you might notice your feet or legs swell after sitting for a long time.
Airplane yoga can help to prevent or alleviate these symptoms. “Yoga is a perfect remedy for many of the physical and emotional discomforts that you will face on a plane,” Manza says. “Because yoga is all about moving your body along with your breath, you’re able to target some of the most affected [areas of your body] like your oxygen levels and blood circulation. It will help to activate relaxation and ease your mind.”
For yoga workouts you can do once you’re off the flight, check out Aaptiv. Our yoga teachers create new classes each week!
What are some airplane yoga poses?
Try these suggested postures to flow without raising the eyebrows of the flight attendants.
If you’ve ever attended a yoga class or practiced solo in your living room with an app like Aaptiv, you probably recall arching your back and tucking in your torso to warm up your spine. While you might not want to strike this pose in front of the bar cart, Manza says you can achieve the same benefits in your own row.
Create a nice, tall spine and press your bottom into the seat. Imagine one of those clouds swirling outside is pulling your head toward the top of the plane. Then, begin to flow. “Clasp your hands behind your head, spreading your elbows right to left. Inhale and lightly arch your heart up toward the sky as your elbows pull back. Exhale and sink your chest back toward your seat, rounding your spine. Drop your chin to your chest and draw the elbow points to touch,” she instructs.
Repeat this move ten times with deep, powerful breaths to improve and maintain your circulation.
Forward Fold with Modification
Yoga instructor Lisa Munjack recommends a modified forward fold. This pose will help you focus on inhaling and exhaling with purpose, which can help alleviate dizziness you may experience at a higher altitude.
Cross your ankles so that your pinky toes rub together. Then, create a flat back, inhale, and gradually fall forward. “This is an inversion that places your heart above your head to help with circulation. Crossing your ankles will also stretch your outer hips, which can be sore after sitting for a long time,” she explains.
Repeat five times and hold each fold for five deep breaths. If your lungs sting, take caution. “If your breathing is labored or restricted in any way, come out a bit by placing your hands on your shins,” she adds.
One way to activate your back and relieve tension caused by little leg room is a seated twist. According to holistic happiness coach and yoga instructor Kate Lombardo says this move helps to increase circulation across the spine, belly, lungs and side body, as well as relieve tension in the low- and mid-back.
Sit at the edge of your seat with both feet flat on the ground. Then, lift your hands up over your head and hug your biceps towards your ears. “Take a deep breath in. As you exhale, twist towards your right and bring your right hand behind your back and your left hand across your right knee,” she instructs. Hold the position for a few breaths, pushing deeper into the position as you exhale. Inhale and bring your arms back up to repeat on the other side. You can repeat as many times as you’d like—or as many times as your neighbor tolerates.
Seated Pigeon Pose
A beloved stretch by many yogis, this feel-good position can be executed right from the seat listed on your boarding pass. “Not only does this bring movement to your hip joint, but it also brings your leg up from the floor which is important to help circulation move to your feet,” Lombardo says.
Sit at the edge of your seat and take your right knee to your chest. Flex your right foot and place your right ankle on your left knee. Then, Lombardo says to gently press your right knee towards the floor and breathe into your outer right hip. “Keep your spine long, and begin to fold your upper body forward towards your leg,” she says. Uncross your right leg, and repeat on the other side.
“If you’re having trouble getting the ankle across the knee, you can also hold your foot with one hand and your knee with the other and rotate as far as you can go, just focus on breathing into your hip joint,” she adds.
For more yoga poses and workouts, check out the Aaptiv app. We have workouts for all fitness levels led by top yoga experts.