Airline seats seem to get more cramped each year. I am a relatively small 5’4’’ and have precious few inches between my knees and the seat in front of me (which is reliably filled with a giant eating a fragrant cheese plate). Living in two cities that are 9,000 miles away from each other (literally) means I have become something of a pro when it comes to working out the stiffness and knots caused by long plane rides. I’m also a yoga instructor with a restorative specialty, so that helps.
This is what I’ve developed over the years, based on my training and experience. It’s a short sequence to practice once you arrive that will help you shed the plane and hit the ground running.
Extended Child’s Pose
Great for a tired, sore low back. Sit with your toes together, stretch your arms forward reaching the hands and fingers away, lengthening the side waists as you pull your tailbone toward your heels and sink your forehead into the floor. 5-10 breaths.
Downward Facing Dog
Increases circulation throughout the body, stretches hamstrings and shoulders, provides a gentle inversion (reversal of blood flow in the upper body). From hands and knees, tuck your toes, lift your hips up and back. Press your palms evenly and firmly down, extend the spine up reaching the tailbone toward the ceiling, release the back of your neck. Firm up your upper thighs and open the backs of the knees, release the heels toward the ground. 5-10 breaths.
Opens upper back, shoulders and chest, increases breath. Lie facedown with your palms under your shoulders, lift the shoulder heads away from the floor, draw the shoulder blades together and down the back and move the center of the chest forward and up as you press the thighs down and reach the legs back evenly along the floor. 5-10 breaths.
Stretches tight hamstrings and opens cramped abdomen and chest areas thereby clearing digestion and increasing breath. From standing, stretch your arms out to the side and step your feet wide. Rotate your right foot 90 degrees to face forward and drop your left heel slightly back to a 45 degree angle. Your right heel should line up with your left inner arch. Keeping your legs straight, slide your hips to the left and reach out over your straight right leg. Rest your hand on the shin or the floor, continue to extend the trunk evenly, reaching through the crown of your head. 5-10 breaths.
Strengthens the legs and spine, relieves sciatica and increases sense of grounding. Stand in tadasana (mountain pose), shift your weight the left foot and lift the right, reach down and grab your right ankle, place the sole of the right foot against the left inner thigh. Bring your palms to touch in front of your heart, lengthen your tailbone and breathe 5-10 breaths.
Opens up the abdomen, chest and shoulders, increases circulation and breath throughout the body. Lie flat on your back, bend your knees and step your feet behind your buttocks, hip width apart. On an inhale, press into your feet, draw your tailbone toward the backs of your knees and lift your hips up. Clasp your hands underneath you and squeeze the shoulder blades together, broadening across the chest and breathe into the heart center. Relax the buttocks and throat. 5-10 breaths.
Soothes the belly, releases tension in the back and supports digestion. Lie flat on your back, hug one knee into your chest and draw it across and down to the floor, rolling onto the outer edge of the opposite leg. Spread arms out, release shoulders and open chest. 5-10 breaths.
A gentle restorative inversion that reverses blood flow, relieves bloating in the feet, ankles and legs, and soothes the nervous system. If you do nothing else, do this pose. Lie on your back with your hips against the wall and your legs extending up the wall. Try to relax and remain in this inverted L shape for 5-10 minutes.
- Ana Tiwathia