Think you have to wait until you’re off the plane to get a good stretch? Think again. As crazy as it sounds, I promise you it is possible to practice yoga from the discomfort of your airplane seat.
Consider this: Yogis are primed to stay focused in less-than-ideal conditions. Remember that packed yoga class you were in that was mat to mat, yet you were able to focus on your own practice? Remember that time you were in a deep twist and were still able to breathe? Yoga teaches us to find inner space, regardless of outer conditions. In fact, the more inward our focus, the more expansive we feel. So, while we may not be able to stretch our legs out fully or do a Handstand in the airplane aisle, we can stretch our minds and find the space we seek within—yes, even when stuck in a cramped middle seat on a long flight.
Try this 5-pose sequence specifically designed to practice in your seat, with your seatbelt fastened.
Cat-Cow (Bitilasana), variation
The best way to find space—yes, even in coach—is to breathe, and adding movement to breath is especially calming for the nervous system. When we are under stress (which, let’s face it, is a natural byproduct of travel these days), the body prepares to fight or flee, which means it needs to move—something that’s challenging when you’re stuck in a cramped airplane seat. This seated Cat-Cow variation opens your spine and shoulders and helps you breathe, ultimately calming your stress response.
How-to: Lift your arms up in line with your ears, bend your elbows, and interlace your fingers behind your head (like you would if you were doing a sit-up). Hug your outer upper arms in toward your ears to target the movement into your upper back. With your feet on the floor hip-width distance apart, arch your spine on an inhalation, reaching your tailbone back and lifting your chest up. (Use your hands behind your head to gently traction your neck.) On an exhalation, round your spine, bringing your elbows to your knees. Repeat 10 times, and as needed throughout your flight.