The vacation season is in full swing and many of us are drawn to faraway places. Discovering foreign countries, immersing ourselves in exotic cultures and landscapes, discovering new favorite foods – to experience all of this, we often have to spend a considerable amount of time in the confined space of an airplane. A challenge for the body and often for the soul.
As in so many situations in life, yoga can help here, too. With targeted exercises before the flight to prepare the body for the long sitting and to calm the nerves in the case of mild fear of flying; with pleasurable stretching after the flight to mobilize the muscles again… and even during the flight! This way, your vacation already starts at the airport.
Before the flight
Being jittery when you know you’ll have to sit in a cramped space for the next few hours? Not so good. Before the flight, get yourself into a calmer mood so you can relax and watch a movie, read, or sleep and, if necessary, calm your nerves.
Practice a few relaxed rounds of moon salutations in tune with your breath. This sequence of movements is more balancing than the related Sun Salutation, less stimulating, but at the same time mobilizes the body wonderfully before it has to sit still for a long time.
Straddled Forward Fold
All of the forward bends are good for getting down and calming nerves, but with the straddled version, you’ll give yourself an especially good stretch – a nice contrast to the seated position you’ll be in on the plane.
Not only does this stretch your hips wonderfully, but it also stretches your lower back. Try combining this pose with standing straddled forward fold and flow from one asana to the next.
During the flight
Despite the limited space, you can also include a few exercises here. But why always focus on the physical aspect of yoga?
Finding a few minutes in your day to just sit still is often not easy. On a flight, you don’t really have a choice. Time to put on your headphones, block out the airplane noise, and let yourself be guided through a beautiful meditation.
Eagle Arms / Cow Face Arms
You don’t need much space for these exercises. They are wonderful for giving your shoulders and arms some attention.
You don’t have to get down on all fours for this popular spinal exercise. It works just as well from an upright sitting position – your back will thank you for it.
Simple seated twist
Sitting for long periods of time, often in uncomfortable poses because you fell asleep in front of a movie, can be stressful on your back. An easy twist is the perfect complement to the cat/cow exercise.
The air in the cabin dries out our skin and eyes. You can do the latter some good with yogic eye exercises, moving the eyeballs mindfully and slowly in all directions without moving the head. Start with a round of “left – center – right”, then continue with “top – center – bottom” and close with “top right – bottom left” and vice versa. Give your eyes a rest between rounds by rubbing your palms together and gently placing them on your eyelids.
After the flight
Once at your destination, you’ll want to move for sure. Give in to that need!
Find a comfortable stance with your feet about hip-width apart. Inhaling, raise your arms above your head at your sides, interlocking your fingers. Hold your breath and tilt your upper body first to the right, then to the left. Exhaling, lower your arms again. Repeat this exercise five times, then shake your body out.
Upward Facing Dog
The position on an airplane tends to be more like a forward fold, as we often sit slumped over. As a balance, the upward facing dog is great as it combines strength in the arms and stretching the legs with a backbend.
More relaxed than the upward facing dog, but with the same benefits, is the sphinx, where the forearms rest on the floor. Why not combine this exercise with a thigh front stretch by alternately bending one leg and pulling it closer to the buttocks at the foot.
Legs up the wall
Our legs don’t feel great on flights – there’s a reason thrombosis stockings exist. Give them some relief by sliding as close as possible to a wall and resting your legs against it. A relief after a long flight!
With these exercises, you’ll be ready for your dream vacation. Where are you going? Tell me in the comments!