"I love sitting on an airplane for hours and hours!" said nobody, ever. Even if chronic pain isn't an issue, being stuck in close quarters and a stuffy atmosphere can make a body sore and stiff as a board. But it's possible to combat travel aches with a few yoga poses you can do anywhere–even at 45,000 feet.
Let's get real: The security line alone is traumatic, so not it's surprising that you already feel like collapsing once you hit the gate . But don’t waste a second of your time in the terminal sitting down–walk around and to keep your blood circulating before you sit for hours on the plane.
While you’re standing in line waiting to board, try a simple tadasana, or mountain pose. Drop your bags and stand with your big toes touching and heels slightly apart. Ground your feet down through the floor, stand tall, and roll your shoulders back and down. You arms should be down by your sides, palms facing forward with pinkies rotated toward the sides of your thighs.
Once you make it to your seat, try a twist to release toxins in the spine. Plant feet firmly on the ground, sit up tall in your seat, and rotate your shoulders to the right. Turn your entire head, neck, and thoracic spine together and brace your left hand on the outside of your right knee for more of a stretch.
After carrying your luggage, your neck and shoulders might feel out of whack. Stretch your neck, upper back, and shoulders with a modified Eagle pose. From your seat, extend your arms in front of you, palms up, right arm crossed over your left at the elbow. Bend both arms so your upper arm and bicep are parallel to the ground. If you can, press your palms together—like you’re trying to hold hands with yourself—for even more of a stretch between your scapula. Can’t quite grab your hands? No problem! Just focus on releasing the tension your shoulders and breathing deeply.
Modified Pigeon Pose
So now your upper body is probably feeling good, but if you’ve been sitting for a while, your lower back, hips, and legs might be screaming for a stretch. Try a modified pigeon pose to get things flowing and release your lower back. Cross the heel of your right foot over your opposite knee, firmly flexing your right foot. Intensify the stretch by gently pushing your right knee down with your right elbow. You’ll feel this pose more if you’re sitting up super straight in your chair… Chairs in the upright position, people.
Bonus! Standing Backbend
Ok, this one isn't technically a plane-friendly pose, but it will make you As soon as you deplane, reverse the effects of sitting by hyperextending your hips a little. Stand evenly with your feet pressing into the ground and place your hands in your back pockets. Gently press your hips forward and arch your upper back, releasing your head and neck behind you. Keep your legs as straight as you can and try to squeeze your elbows towards each other as you do this for more of a chest opener. Slowly roll back up to standing after a few breaths.
Remember to drink tons of water while you're traveling to prevent your muscles from getting dehydrated. You may never step off the plane feeling like a million bucks, but at least you'll be energized enough to explore your destination rather than crash landing at your hotel.
Illustration by Karley Koenig