Yoga in an Airplane?!

Yeah thats right. Now is the time of the year for long hauls. For me a flight from Germany back to my home town Jacksonville, Florida. I am reallllyyyy excited, but I am dreading the 8-9 hour flight. It is alway dry and long and stuffy. Sitting the whole time is a no go unless I am laid back in 1st class (Which I am not). So I looked up some yoga ideas for an airplane ride.

Airplane yoga: 18 exercises for healthy flying

Don’t enjoy flying as much as you should? You’re tired at your destination? These 18 exercises will set you straight

By Charlotte Dodson (words and poses) and Louisa Seton (images) 9 September, 2011

plane yoga

Welcome to plane yoga. Breathe deeply now.

You can practice yoga anywhere, including when traveling on an aircraft.

By performing just a few simple moves, you give yourself a multitude of benefits: it will stretch you out, massage your internal organs, improve circulation and relieve anxiety you may experience before and during your flight.

Follow these next simple moves to keep you calm, refreshed and comfortable when traveling. It will enable you to stay limber, especially when sitting on a plane for long hours.

To feel energized and relaxed during your flight, participate in these healthy body shapes whilst seated or in the aisle. That way you’ll be able give more at your destination.

So here’s a start: Breathe deeply through your nostrils with your spine upright, belly active, and chin tucked gently into your throat. Do this for about five breaths. Remember to be kind, and not to force your breathing at any time.What follows are 18 exercises for a healthy flight.

In your seat:

1. Your anchor: Easy sitting, deep exhales (Sukhasana)

plane yoga

Keep your back straight.

Instruction: Sit cross-legged, close your eyes and bring your hands into a prayer position. Take a few long deep inhales, and sigh deeply when you exhale, to release any unwanted tension. After repeating a few times, concentrate on breathing naturally.Slowly begin to move your right hand (fingers face up) to the side as you exhale, following the movement with your eyes, and as you exhale, draw the hand to meet back into prayer at your chest.

Repeat the same on your left side and continue as slow as you can for five-10 rounds.

Benefits: Feelings of anxiety that are mental overloads can easily be dissolved by releasing an excess of built-up stress upon your exhalation breath, and keeping your mind anchored onto your breathing pattern. It relaxes you while you sit.

2. Neck release: Neck rolls

plane yoga

Be gentle now.

Instructions: On the edge of your seat, keep your spine upright and shoulders rolling back. Rest your hands lightly rest on top of your thighs. As you inhale, stretch your head back gently and on your exhale softly allow your head to rotate forwards.Keep this slow rotational movement all in one direction five times and then softly repeat in the opposite direction. 

Benefits: When sitting for long periods of time, create mobility into your upper body. We can carry a lot of tension in neck and shoulders.

3. Emotional release: Hands under armpits (Padadhirasana)

plane yoga

Close your eyes, if you wish.

Instruction: Sit cross-legged, place your arms across your chest and lock your hands under your armpits. Keep your thumbs pointing upwards. Raise your shoulders without cramping your neck muscles. With your chin tucked and lips closed, breathe deeply and slowly through both nostrils for three-11 minutes.Benefits: This pose promotes a calm mind. You’ll find that your thoughts are still there, but you won’t feel them.
Please note it’s best to ask cabin crew for a glass of water before this practice.

4. Flexibility of spine: Cat Cow movement (Marjaryasana)

plane yoga

Concentrate on your breathing.

Instruction: On the edge of your seat, align your feet aligned with your hips. With your hands lightly on top of your thighs, inhale, and roll your shoulders to arch your chest upwards and outwards.

Look to the tip of your nose, and on your exhale, roll your spine forward. Allow your body to follow the flow and length of every breath. Continue for 10-20 breaths.

Benefit: This movement will enable you to free any tension or emotions that you may hold onto by releasing blockages within your spinal column. Cat-cow pose opens up your spine.

5. Balance and centre: Seated spinal twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana – variation)

plane yoga

Feel that stretch.

Instruction: On the edge of your seat, gently draw your right knee over your left knee. Bring your left hand onto your right knee, the other on the armrest.

As you inhale, keep your spine long, and turn towards your right side on your exhale. Breathe deeply for five breaths before repeating to the other side. 

 Benefits: This helps unravel daily stresses, getting into all those knots and tight areas, helping to alleviate the strain and creates lightness.

6. Wake up your legs: Leg and hip movement

plane yoga

Remember to have a good time.

Instruction: With your legs together in front of you, while you press your left foot firmly onto the floor, bend your right knee and carry your thigh close towards your chest, keeping a straight back.

Hold for five-10 breaths, before tilting your knee out to the side, opening your hips and lightly placing the opposite palm onto the sole of your foot.

Inhale deeply, pressing the knee towards the floor. Now exhale deeply but slowly, while raising your knee to your chest. Avoid forward bending.

Repeat 20 times on each leg and shake your legs to release.

Benefit: Creates mobility and takes pressure away from your knee joints.

7. Lengthen spine: Half forward bend

plane yoga

Reach for the skies.

Instruction: On the edge of your seat, press your feet firmly onto the ground, aligned with hips. Keep your spine upright.

Inhale to raise your arms, and exhale to fold your body halfway forward out in front of you. Keep your breath slow, feet pressing down, shoulders relaxed and chin tucked.

Benefit: This pose turns you inward, to a calm and quiet place. It strengthens your back muscles and lengthens your spine.

8. Shoulder releasing: Eagle arms (Garudasana)

plane yoga

Let your mind follow your body.

Instruction: Stretch your arms straightforward, parallel to the floor, and spread your shoulder blades wide across your back.

Cross your right arm above your left, bending your elbows. Now snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise your forearm.

The backs of your hands should face each other, until you press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so they cross and the palms face each other.

The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the little finger of the left. Now press the palms together and — as much as is possible for you — lift your elbows up, and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling. Stay for 15-30 seconds, unwind, and then repeat with the arms reversed.
Benefit: This open shoulder joints, increases circulation to all joints and improves digestion.

9. Shoulder stretch: Cow faced arms (Gomuktasana)

plane yoga

Look straight ahead.

Instruction: Inhale while outstretching your right arm. Rotate your arm inwardly, and then move it backwards, with your palm facing the ceiling.

With a full exhale, sweep the arm behind your torso and tuck the forearm in the hollow of your lower back, parallel to your waist. Roll your shoulder down, and then work the forearm.

The back of your hand will now be in between your shoulder blades.

Now inhale and stretch your left arm forward, parallel to the floor. Turn the palm up and, with another inhalation, stretch the arm straight upward, palm turned back.

With an exhalation, bend the elbow and reach your left hand down to your right hand, locking fingers if possible.

Stay in this pose about one minute. Release the arms and repeat opposite.

Benefit: This pose increases your range of motion in your shoulder joints, stretches your chest, shoulders and inner armpits.

10. Shoulder opening: Interlocked hands

plane yoga

And stretch.

Instruction: Stand at the exit or aisle with your feet aligned to your hips. Roll your shoulders back as you slowly interlock your hands behind your back. Keep your chin tucked and back straight.

With your feet pressing firmly into the floor, press your fists down and away from your body. Breathe deeply and hold for five-10 breaths before releasing.

Benefit: Creates openness into your shoulders, strengthens arms and keeps your upper body mobile.

11. Rejuvenate and calm: Standing forward bend (Uttanasana)

plane yoga

See how far you can go.

Instruction: Stand with your feet hip distant apart. From your hips, tilt forward with your knees and just let your arms hang down, placing one hand onto each elbow.

Press your feet firmly on the floor and take 10 deep breaths, then stand up slowly.
Benefit: Forward bends lengthen your spine.

12. Energize and revitalize: Thigh stretch

plane yoga

Keep your balance.

Instruction: Lift your right foot off the floor and bend your knee so your lower leg is behind your body. Carefully grasp your right ankle with your right hand and pull straight up until your heel is by your butt. Hold for five-10 breaths before switching sides.
Benefit: Stretching your quadriceps.

13. Ground and focus: Tree (Vrksasana)

plane yoga

Relax your mind.

Instruction: With your feet together, bring your weight onto your left side. When you inhale, bring your right foot onto your left anklebone, with your knee out wide.

Looking ahead, press the inner side of your foot into your inner thigh, holding your pose.

Your hands can stay on your hips –- alternatively, when you inhale, bring your arms in front of your chest into prayer.

While Exhaling, release your foot and arms back down. To challenge yourself further, you could even close your eyes for inner balance and clarity.

Hold for five-10 breaths, and repeat on the other side.
Benefit: This pose is perfect to keep your feet firmly grounded. When ‘in the moment’, this stability gives us clarity

14. Courage and determination: Warrior 1 (Virabhadrasana I)

plane yoga

Give yourself courage.

Instruction: Start in the middle of the aisle, with your feet together. Lunge your left leg back, one leg distant and pressing into the balls of your foot. Keep your back leg straight and front knee bent.

Raise your arms with palms touching, and shoulders down and relaxed. Gaze to one point to help with your balance. Breathe deeply for five breaths or more before changing sides.
This pose will work all those leg muscles you forgot you had. So breathe deeply, hold these poses and, as it goes, make your dreams reality.

15. Foundation and strength: Mighty (Utkatasana)

plane yoga

Your strength is all yours.

Instructions: Stand up and bring your feet and knees together. As you exhale, bend your knees and raise your arms, bringing palms together. (Optionally, you could reach to the sides to extend your arms). Breathe deeply for five-10 breaths. Release to standing and repeat another three times.

Benefits: Strong legs keep you grounded, even while flying. This chair pose builds muscle tone in the lower half of your body. It’s a strong pose, so breathe slowly and stand up at any time.

16. Revitalize and oxygenate: Lateral stretch (Parighangasana variation)

plane yoga

You can do whatever you want.

Instruction: Stand, with your feet hip distant apart, and inhale as you raise your right arm skyward. When you exhale, keeping your chin tucked, lean over to left side, and if you keep your body parallel, you should feel a stretch on your side if you do not lean forward or back. Hold for five-10 breaths before repeating the other side. 

Benefits: This side-stretching pose lengthens the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, including the lower back. It opens the sides of the rib cage, improving rib cage mobility and lung expansiveness, which makes breathing easier in all situations -– particularly in a plane.

17. Embrace and be free: Warrior 111 (Virabhadrasana III)

plane yoga

Flying gives you the freedom of your dreams.

Instructions: Level 1: Stand in an exit area (or aisle), bend down to touch your fingertips to the floor, slightly ahead of your feet. Activate your legs as you step your left leg back, one leg distant, with your toes on the floor.

Level 2: Keeping your fingers lightly on the floor, raise your left leg off the floor. Keep your front leg knee bent if your back is tender.

Level 3: As you firmly press down into your base foot and leg lift your fingers away from the ground and swing your arms back by your side.

Hold the pose as gracefully as you can, breathing deeply for 5 breaths, before repeating on the other leg.

Benefits: This is an advanced pose, so don’t worry too much if you stay with the easier variation and build from there when you’re ready. Take the challenge to be brave and say what you feel, especially with those everyday situations that can be a little confronting at times.

18. Take a stroll

Alternatively, when the seat belt sign goes off, perhaps take a stroll around the cabin to shake and move your legs every few hours.

By practicing yoga regularly, your body will stay truly healthy and limber as you embrace and live life. 

Words and poses in this story by Charlotte Dodson,

Photography by Louisa Seton,

Hair and makeup by Desiree Wise, fashion by

Special thanks to Etihad Airways who provided the airplane and security for this shoot. Etihad Airways flies into Australia among its global destinations,

Read more: Airplane yoga: 18 exercises for healthy flying |


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