How To Practice Yoga At 30,000 Feet

I love to travel, but long plane flights wreak havoc on my body. The only thing that helps is incorporating yoga into my journey. Yoga prevent aches and pains, helps me think more clearly, and makes the transition to a new time zone much, much easier.

Here’s how I practice yoga, when there isn’t much room to move at all:

Meditate. I always meditate at the beginning and end of the flight–like an opening and closing ritual for the trip. For those who are new to meditation, all you have to do is close your eyes, breathe through your nose, and think so hum (translated “I am that”), or any other mantra that holds meaning for you. No one will know you are meditating unless you tell them…they will probably just think you are really, really tired. Stretch Where You Are. From my seat, I practice twists by sitting tall, look over one shoulder and pressing a hand into the opposite leg. I hold the twists for ten breaths, and then repeat on the other side. I also practice half pigeon pose, by bringing an ankle to the opposite knee, and applying pressure to the inside of the lifted thigh, to open the hip. It helps to keep your eyes closed, to tune out any distractions, and also so people don’t think you are checking them out. Get Up And Flow. About once an hour, I get up to walk around, and find a place to practice standing stretches. I try to yoga where I won’t be seen, but sometimes I just have to practice with the flight attendants. They usually tell me it is “so smart” to stretch in flight, and sometimes they even join in. What I practice is so simple, it’s silly…but it makes a huge difference in how I feel when we land. Here’s my favorite airplane flow: 1. Standing stretches. From standing, inhale and lift hands toward the top of the plane. Interlace fingers, ground the feet, stretch palms up (as high as possible, while keeping the feet grounded and tailbone tucked). Hold for ten breaths. On an exhale, bend to the right. Hold for ten full breaths, before inhaling and returning to center. Stretch palms up again on an inhale, and stretch to the other side on the exhale. Return to center on the inhale, keeping the spine long as you move. 2. Forward fold flow. On an exhale, lower fingers to the floor, while keeping the core engaged and the back flat. Draw the belly up under the ribs. Knees can be bent if necessary. Keeping fingers on the floor, inhale, look up and flatten out the back, reaching your heart forward, and taking care to not strain the neck. Exhale as you lower fingers to the floor. Repeat 5 times, and notice how the body gradually releases tension. 3. Open your shoulders. While still in the forward fold, take the arms behind the back and interlace fingers. Press palms toward each other and, on and exhale, stretch hands as far forward (away from hips) as possible, without over-stretching. Hold for ten breaths. On an exhale, bring hands to the floor. Lift the other hand on an inhale. Hold for ten breaths, and repeat on the other side. On and inhale, return to standing, keeping the back flat. 4. Single leg forward fold. From standing, take a big step forward with your right foot. Bring your hands to your hips, and, on an exhale, lean forward over the right leg. Draw the right hip back, and left hip forward, to level the lower back. Draw the elbows toward each other, and keep the back flat. Switch legs and repeat on the other side. This pose can be modified by bringing the hands to rest on the front shin, or on either side of the front foot. 5. Modified Dancer Pose. Stand on the left leg, and place the left hand on a wall for balance. Grab the outside of the right foot with the right hand. On and exhale, pull the left foot to the outside of the hip, for five breaths. Then, push the foot into the hand to create a mini-backbend. Hold for five breaths, and release. Repeat on the opposite side. 6. Lunges. If you can find enough space, practice runner’s lunges on both sides. Keep your stance long, and do not let the knee come forward of the ankle on the front leg. 7. Practice chair pose. Inhale, bend knees, lift arms and sit in an imaginary chair. Hold for ten deep breaths. This one is a great energizer, if you can find a place that you don’t feel goofy doing it! 8. Twisting Chair. Stay in chair pose, and add a twist. From the seated position, bring the hands to the heart, palms touching, and move the right elbow to the left knee. Hold for ten breaths, return to chair on an inhale, and the repeat the pose on the other side on the exhale. Print these sequences out now, and put them in your carry on bag before your next trip. Or if that’s too much to remember, then just make a point of doing something, the next time you travel. Breathe. Stretch. Meditate. It really doesn’t matter what, as long as you just do something. Namaste, and happy travels~ Amber


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