You made it—the end of your air travel. Despite long lines, annoying baggage fees, not-so-tasty airport food, and dueling wailing infants on either side of the aisle, you have arrived.
Once the aircraft has landed and the fasten seatbelt sign dings off, you stand up to prepare to disembark and notice how stiff your body is from the flight. Your upper back and neck are tight from carrying all of your bags. Your legs feel double their size and sore, despite so many hours of not moving. Your tummy hurts from not being able to stand up after your meal, and your bum feels numb from sitting for so long. Then, there’s possible jet-lag and pent-up stress to contend with.
Being sedentary under any circumstance isn’t great for your body, and being still while cramped on an airplane is even worse. After all, you’re breathing recirculated air and dealing with dehydration at 30,000-plus feet above sea level. Plus, the effects of stress (read: decreased immunity and digestive issues) make matters worse.
While there are some movements you can do in your seat to combat all of this, getting on the ground and moving wisely can make a big difference when it comes to countering the toll travel can take. Just as you unroll your yoga mat to open it up, this sequence will help you unravel your body to open yourself back up after flying. You can practice these poses while you are waiting for your luggage at baggage claim or looking for your Uber at the pick-up curb. Because each pose is a standing pose, it doesn’t matter if you don’t have much space or if your travel mat is still in your suitcase.
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
What is the very first thing you want to do when the fasten seat-belt sign dings off? Stand up! Yet if you don’t pop up immediately to claim some aisle space, this likely means you spend the next 10 to 15 minutes hunched over, trying to take up some space underneath the overhead compartments. This is what makes this first pose a necessary and delicious beginning to our post-plane sequence.
How-to: Start with your feet together or hip-width distance apart, beginning in Mountain Pose (Tadasana). Press the four corners of your feet into the ground and take a few moments here to simply feel solid ground beneath you. Raise your arms overhead, interlacing every finger but your index fingers. On an inhalation, reach up through your entire body, taking your chest to the sky. On an exhalation, arch backward, creating a mild backbend. Press your inner thighs gently back as your tailbone releases to the floor, lengthening your spine. Draw your low belly in and up to support your low back and press your shoulder blades into your front body, helping to open your heart and lift your chest. If it feels OK on your neck, look up. Stay here for 10 to 15 long breaths. On an inhalation, bring your spine back to “neutral” (meaning your natural spinal curves) by bringing your front ribs to your hip bones. On an exhalation, release your arms to your sides.