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Air Travel Yoga: 5 Stress Relief Tips When Traveling By Airplane

in YogaDork Ed

By Jill Miller

Backaches, anxiety, and feelings of claustrophobia are all common symptoms associated with the stress of the packing, schlepping, waiting and hurrying involved in travel. And travel can present the risk of more serious health threats including deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the legs due to lack of circulation and dehydration. So what’s a yogic traveler to do? Try these simple strategies and easy yoga stretches to help shield you from the effects of stress and inactivity when you travel:

1. Try to arrive at the airport well ahead of schedule so that you lower the risk of missing your flight. Then, with your extra time at the airport, you’ll be able to indulge in some “pre-flight yoga.” Find an un-crowded waiting area and stretch.

After carrying luggage, interlace your hands behind your back and raise them up for Standing Bridge Arms pose.

My favorites are basic shoulder poses to help me unwind from carrying luggage, standing one-legged balance poses to reset my core, and a variety of runner’s lunges using chairs for additional support.

While practicing, soothe your nerves with deep abdominal breathing. If you find yourself rushed or in a panic with spiking anxiety, remind yourself that the only thing you can control in this moment is your breathing. Don’t punish yourself for getting hyped up; forgive yourself (and the airlines) for losing control now and then!

2. Once on board, if you have Yoga Tune Up Balls, pull them out of your carry-on so you can use them for an in flight back massage. You can start by placing them between your shoulder blades and gently wiggle your back from side to side while the balls massage across your upper back. Reset the balls in a new spot every 10 minutes or so and your kinks will be massaged out by the time you walk off the flight. You can also use them against the bathroom door or galley wall, you might get a stare or two, but it’s worth it!

3. Choose an aisle seat if possible so that you can walk along the aisle (carts permitting) and stretch your legs to pump blood through your whole system. During a long flight, the hamstrings, hip flexors and back muscles tend to become tense and congested from lack of movement. This is important as long flights are one of the top causes of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms (just ask my husband!).

4. Try to squeeze in another runner’s lunge or simple forward bend in the galleys on the way to the onboard bathroom. The airline bathroom may be small, but I have been known to do a few jumping jacks to stir up my blood. I’ll then carefully arrange my body into a few creative sidebending poses, which is also a great lower back stretch. And of course, throughout the flight, drink plenty of water.

Once you’re at your destination, make it a priority to calm down your nervous system from all of the stimulation. My favorite is the deeply tranquilizing Veeparita Korani Mudra (Legs Up the Wall Pose). It is very simple and a great stress-reliever.

  • Lay on your back with your buttocks at the wall and prop up your pelvis with a block.
  • Straighten your legs upright against the wall so that they are supported by the wall.
    Inhale through your nose filling from belly to throat.
  • Imagine your breath is like a cascading waterfall as it fills from your belly to your heart, and finally pauses at the throat.
  • Slowly exhale then repeat (5-10 minutes).

Have a look at this video for another wonderfully down regulating belly breathing technique.

These simple techniques will help regulate your system through travel (and beyond) so you can awaken refreshed and energized. Throughout your trip resume your yoga practice, whether it’s with a yoga DVD you’ve brought along, a live class you found in your destination city, or an online yoga class or how-to video. This consistency will keep you much more balanced and ready for any new challenges that lay ahead.

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2 comments… add one

  • Thanks for not suggesting stretching in your seat. As a guy over 6 feet tall I just have to have a laugh when they show videos during the flight of how to exercise in your seat, conveniently using a tiny woman in the video to show the stretches.

  • And you can do lots of yoga called “Chair Yoga” right from your airplane seat during flight! Including gentle neck rolls, wrists and ankle rotations, spinal twist, breathing and meditation practices and more!
    At hotel/destination if jet lagged, try legs up on the wall poses to re-energize or calm the nerves and mind.

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