Yoga on a Plane: How to Survive Holiday Travel

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Middle seat, rear of the plane. That’s your home for the next six hours on this overnight, cross-country flight, but don’t despair. A little in-seat yoga will help you arrive at your destination with sane mind and (relatively) supple body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, doctors advise passengers stand up and stretch muscles once an hour to encourage blood circulation throughout the body. Couple your walks to the bathroom with some in-seat asanas and you’ll boost your mood and blood flow.

"You want to keep moving,” Bess Abrahams, co-author of "Airplane Yoga," a how-to guide for in-flight asanas told the Huffington Post. “Yoga techniques are a great avenue to remind yourself to move and some of them have multiple benefits."

In-Seat Asanas

Practice Pranayama

Slow in-and-out breaths won’t disturb anyone—even when a kicking toddler is getting on your last nerve. One of our favorite calming breaths is alternate nostril breathing, and it’s a perfect practice for your seat on the plane.

How to: Place your left hand on your left knee. Raise the right hand to your forehead and place your index finger and middle finger on your third eye. Close the right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril. Close the left nostril with your ring finger, and exhale through your right nostril. Breath in through the right nostril, then close the right nostril with your thumb. Breathe out through the left nostril. This is one cycle. Continue for up to five minutes.

Alternate Nostril Breathing with Kelly Sunrose

Neck Rolls

Any airport tension—from the epically long security line to the one that followed at Starbucks—goes straight to your neck. Ease neck pain with easy, space-conscious neck rolls.

How to: Take a deep breath, exhale, and allow your chin to fall to your chest. Begin to circle your head to the right side, then to the back, then to the left side. Continue circling in this clockwise pattern for five rotations, then reverse to a counter-clockwise direction for five more rotations. Finish by placing your right hand atop your head and gently letting the weight of your hand pull your ear toward your right shoulder. Repeat on the left side.

Eagle Arms

This posture loosens the upper back and shoulders while keeping you out of the aisle.

How to: Bring your arms out in front of you and cross the right upper arm or elbow over your left. Bring your palms to touch, then raise the upper arms while lowering your shoulders. Take five breaths here before releasing repeating on the left side.

Seated Twist

While you may not have much space in your seat, a seated twist will help create more space in your spine. Twists are also by nature detoxifying, which makes them great for the airplane. Many people tend to get constipated when they travel, which makes a seated twist all the more helpful.

How to: Sit up tall in your seat with your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Rest your right forearm on the arm rest and place your left hand on your right thigh. As you exhale, press your left hand into your right thigh as you twist to the right. Work with your breath and your arms to twist deeper, and hold for 10 to 15 breaths. Exhale, return to center, and repeat on the left side.

Seated Pigeon

Sitting for long periods of time—in cars, airplanes, and at holiday tables—can lead to tight hips. In-flight pigeon pose is the antidote.

How to: Bring your right ankle to rest on your left knee. (Raise your arm rest if necessary to make room.) Interlace your fingers and rest your elbows on your knee and ankle. Place your head atop your hands. Keeping your back and neck straight, lean towards your upright tray table, placing weight gently on knee. Breathe deeply for 10-15 breaths. You may also choose to circle your right ankle. Then repeat on the opposite side.

Seated Cat and Cow

Your spine will thank you for this one.

How to: Scoot to the front edge of your seat. Place your hands on your knees and straighten your arms as much as you can. On an inhale, arch your back, lift your chest, and look up toward the flight attendant call button, reading lights, and fans. On the next exhale, round your spine and let your head drop forward. Pay special attention to expanding the space between your shoulder blades. Repeat the cat-cow movements on each inhale and exhale for five breaths.

Postures for when you get up to use the bathroom

When you’re waiting for the lavatory—or finally have a moment of privacy inside—practice these poses, which will be easier to pull off standing or with a little more room.

Mountain Pose

A modified version of mountain pose —with a calf raise thrown in—offers a full-body stretch.

How to: Stand tall and raise your arms overhead with hands clasped. Slowly raise your heels to stand on the balls of your feet and hold for 10 seconds.

Standing Forward Fold

This light inversion will calm the mind, soothe jangled nerves, and stretch everything from your spine, neck, and back to your hips, hamstrings, and calves.

How to: Inhale, standing tall. As you exhale, hinge at the hips and fold forward. Let the arms hang or gently clasp opposite elbows. Bend your knees as much as necessary to relieve any tension from the low back. Hold for 10 breaths.

Shoulder Stretch

Release the strain from your back, shoulders, and neck; for a double whammy, couple with the standing forward bend.

How to: Clasp your hands behind your back and straighten your arms as much as possible behind you. Draw your shoulder blades together on your back, as if you were trying to hold a dollar bill between them. Release your head and neck, lean forward, and bend over your legs. Hold for five deep breaths.

Traveling Magic Tricks with Scott Blossom


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