Have you ever felt stressed while flying? You know, that feeling of unease during those hours spent without any form of physical movement? You are not alone.
As a yoga instructor and digital nomad, 90% of my traveling is usually done with a laptop and my backpack. After completing a three weeks’ adventure spanning four countries in South and South-Eastern Asia, you can imagine the pain I would feel sitting on a plane for hours on end and with not much space to move around in. It’s especially bad when you land up in a window seat. Getting up to walk around a bit and stretch your legs a bit is not that easy. It is, in fact, very frustrating!
If you have been in a similar situation, I am sure you have wondered what you could do about it. Is it even possible, especially when sandwiched in your seat? Yes, actually there is. There are, in fact, numerous yoga positions that you can modify when seated. Besides helping your muscles stretch, and in some cases relax, they are of great benefit with regards to stress relief.
Let me explain a few of these easy yoga positions that you can do next time you are seated in a plane for a few hours. You could even do them at the gate before boarding.
Let’s start with neck
Sit upright. Then, when inhaling, turn your face upwards towards the ceiling. When exhaling, slowly turn your face downwards, and tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat this exercise two to three times.
The next exercise starts with your sitting up straight and inhaling. On the exhale, slowly turn your face to the right. While doing so, imagine that you want to align your chin with your right shoulder. It does not have to be perfect. Then gently inhale again, slowly turning your head towards the center, i.e. forward. Continue with this exercise, each time turning your face in the opposite direction. Repeat this exercise two to three times.
The next exercise has you sitting up straight and looking forward again. Inhale. When exhaling, slowly lower your chin down towards your chest. You need to feel the back of your neck stretching. Next, tilt your heard towards your right shoulder, and feel the left side of your neck stretching. Inhale, while gently turning your face up towards the ceiling. Then simply let go, and tilt your neck towards your left shoulder. Exhale, and once again lower your chin to your chest. Reverse this process. On your exhale, lower your chin to your chest and gently tilt it towards your left shoulder. On the inhale, turn your face up and slowly tilt it towards your right shoulder. On the next exhale, turn your face back and lower your chin onto your chest.
Please remember that the speed of each step in each of these exercises depends on you. You can go as slow as you like. Taking it too quickly may end up with you getting sick on the plane instead of relieving your stress.
Back and shoulders
Seated Cat and Cow
Start this exercise by sitting up straight and placing both your hands on your knees. While inhaling, arch your back, open your chest towards the ceiling, bring your shoulders back, and look up. On the exhale, round your back, bring your shoulders forward, and drop your chin to your chest. You can repeat this exercise as many times as you wish. This pose strengthens the spine and increases your flexibility. Do be careful when doing this exercise if you have a previous neck injury.
Sitting in an upright position, place your left forearm on the left armrest, and with your right hand, grab the outside of your left knee. Inhale deeply. While doing so, lengthen your spine. On your exhale, turn your body to the left. Look over your left shoulder and hold this position for the span of between five and eight breaths. While doing so, imagine you want both your shoulders to be aligned. I know that you will most probably not be able to get this right, but this is what you should strive for.
Inhale slowly and release the posture, coming back to your center. Now it is time for the opposite side.
Place your right forearm on the right side armrest and with your left hand grab the outside of your right knee. Inhale again, and lengthen your spine. Exhale while twisting to your right. Look over your right shoulder and keep this posture for between five and eight breaths before once more releasing.
Repeat this exercise a few times.
Elbows clasped behind back (Reverse Prayer)
If you can do a reverse prayer position, i.e. one with your palms together behind your back, go ahead. But many people are not able to do so. I, therefore, modified this position, making it easier for anyone to enjoy. Bring both your arms behind your back and clasp the opposite elbow. If you can’t, then clasping your forearms is okay too. This pose will help to open your chest and shoulders. Hold this position for five to eight breaths before releasing.
This might feel a bit awkward in the beginning and that is ok. No one is perfect, but practice will make progress. Here comes the challenge! Practice these modified yoga postures into your upcoming flight. Let me know which of these is your favorite exercise!
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Enjoy Living & Be Happy