Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, the idea of feeling refreshed and invigorated as you disembark can seem as unlikely as a spontaneous upgrade to first class. The culprit of that post-plane feeling: low air pressure in the cabin, which sucks oxygen from the blood, coupled with long periods of sitting in often cramped conditions.
But before you give up on the idea entirely and settle instead on that bag of mixed nuts, consider trying a few simple yoga postures while you fly. No, we’re not suggesting you lay out a mat in the middle of the aisle - many asanas (or poses) can be done right in your seat or while standing in the line for the loo. Plus, you don’t need to have practiced yoga before to give them a try (we’re not the type to suggest in-flight pretzel moves!).
We asked Vivien Fung, an instructor at Hom Yoga in Sydney, for her top asanas to try on a plane, that will help you feel less cramped and more refreshed when you hit the tarmac.
Forward fold (Uttanasana)
How to do it: Find a quiet area to stand and place your hands on hips. As you inhale, lengthen the body out of the hips, then fold forward from the hip joints. You can let the hands drop to the floor, or hold opposite elbows. Soften the shoulders away from the ears.
Doing this move will help stretch your hamstrings, calves and hips, says Vivien. “Uttanasana will calm your mind from the stress of flying and relieve fatigue, anxiety and headaches so that you'll arrive with a clearer mind and happier legs.”
Sounds like a win-win to us.
Upward stretch (Urdhva Hastasana)
How to do it: Find a quiet place to stand with your hands by your sides, palms facing away from the body. Reach up on an inhale, drawing in your ribs and lengthening your tailbone to the floor. You can also incorporate a small back bend by lifting the chest up and back. Pair this with uttanasana (inhaling as you come to urdhva hastasana, then exhaling to uttanasana) for a great all-body stretch.
As you’re stretching the stomach, shoulders and armpits, digestion will improve. Vivien also notes that the combination of an upward stretch and forward fold will help with anxiety and circulation, leaving you feeling fresh when you step off the plane.
Eagle arms (Modified Garudasana)
How to do it: either standing or seated, reach your arms in front of you. Cross one elbow over the other, and bend the elbows so the forearms are perpendicular to the floor. Bring the hands together or hold your shoulders. Reach the elbows forward to deepen the stretch. Change the crossing of the arms to take this into the other side.
As well as giving your shoulders and upper back muscles a good stretch, eagle arms will relieve tension and send fresh blood to the upper body muscles. According to Vivien, this will help you feel more at ease in the torso and neck.
How to do it: in your seat, hold the armrests and gently twist the chest in one direction, as you draw your belly softly in towards your spine. Release, then twist in the opposite direction.
Rotating your spine in this way stretches the muscles of your back and decompresses your vertebrae. This will release tension in the hips and lower back, and energise your spine and mind in preparation for your landing.
Modified thread the needle
How to do it: in your seat, cross your right ankle over the left knee. Lean the torso down, reaching the chest towards the right shin, as you simultaneously lift the left heel off the floor, coming onto left toe tips. Keep the right foot flexed towards the right knee. Switch the legs to change sides.
“This juicy hip opener will ease tension in the glutes, lower back and legs, while also improving circulation in the leg muscles,” says Vivien. This means that your legs will feel less fatigued and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running!
Hom Yoga is available on ClassPass. ClassPass is a monthly membership that connects you to more than 8,500 of the best fitness studios worldwide.