Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
Yoga for Bad People founders Heather Lilleston and Katelin Sisson travel like it’s their job (because it is) and have partnered with EDITION Hotels to produce a series of “in-room fitness amenities” available in all of the brand’s properties (Miami, London, New York, Sanya). Here, they offer YJ readers their favorite post-plane poses to balance out the body.
All the sitting, heavy bags, slumping, and waiting around travel involves can leave the body tight. The psoas, lower back, shoulders, chest, hamstrings, and joints often all need a refresh. Since we regularly dash around the globe leading Yoga for Bad People retreats, we’re very familiar with the effects of travel. Here are some of our favorite poses to reset the body and mind after a flight. Taking even a few short moments to focus specifically on opening up the areas of the body most affected can give you that initial energy boost necessary to fight jet lag and fatigue.
Standing forward fold with Hands Interlaced
This pose opens the hamstrings gradually (you never want to force them), releases and resets the low back (as long as knees are bent), begins opening the shoulders and side body, and flushes the brain and lungs from stale airplane air and general stagnation from sitting too long. Hanging upside down is one of the most efficient ways to restore the body.
Place feet hip-distance apart, bend knees to protect the sacrum (low back) and hamstrings, interlace hands, and relax head. Take a few breaths then switch the interlacing of your hands.
Thunderbolt Pose with Side Bend
The fold in the legs is good for stimulating digestion and releases the calf muscles, which are associated with the fight-or-flight response and general anxiety. Lifting the arms can help release tension and compression in the lower back region. And the sidebending opens the intercostal muscles between the ribs, making space for the lungs and deeper breathing.
Sit back on your heels with your knees together. Take your left hand out to the left, in line with your hip and reach up through your right arm and your right side body and over to the left side. Breathe here and then switch sides.
Sage Pose Twist
The extended leg in this pose opens the hamstring, while the folded leg aids digestion, similar to a squat. And the twist clears toxins and debloats.
From a seated position, extend both legs out in front of you. Bend the right knee, placing the heel in line with the sitting bone. Hug the right knee in with the left arm. On each inhale lengthen the waist, on each exhale twist to the right. Repeat for at least 5 breaths, before switching sides.
Seated Spinal Twist
Twisting removes toxins, debloats, aids digestion, and broadens the back to prepare the body for more even backbends, which come next in our sequence. The broad back also supports exhalation, which helps remove toxins from the body and calm the mind.
Sitting with legs extended, place the right foot on the outside of the left thigh and bend the left knee, taking the left heel just outside of the right hip (without sitting on it). Lengthen the waist, taking the right arm behind you for support. Lift the left arm up, and twist to the right, hooking the arm around the right leg or on the outside of the knee. Engage the calf muscles as if the legs are wrapping around each other to create more lift in the chest. Take 5 complete breaths before switching sides.
Airplane seats often have us hunching forward, but this pose reverses that by opening the front body. This is a great neutralizer for the spine and good transition for opening the front body in preparation for backbends.
Bend both knees placing both feet on the floor, knees tracking over ankles. Place both hands behind you with fingers pointing toward the feet. Lift hips up in line with the knees and release head back (optional: keep head lifted if it’s too much on the neck). Lengthen your tailbone toward the knees. Draw the navel to the spine for support and allow the shoulder blades to move toward each other to press the thoracic spine up into the mid-torso.
This is both a standing and balancing pose, which reinvigorates the leg muscles, restores balance, opens the front body and chest, opens the lungs and realigns the shoulder joint.
Standing on both feet to begin, bend the right knee bringing the foot behind you. Reach back to take a hold of the inner right ankle with the right hand, externally rotating the right arm. With a slight bend in the standing leg knee, press the right foot back behind you, reaching the chest forward. Keep the knee in line with the hip as the leg extends back and extend the left arm straight ahead, palm facing down. Take a few breaths. Pause in Tadasana to notice the effects of the posture before switching sides.
This pose is excellent for opening the front body (the chest, lungs, heart, stomach, and throat), releasing the neck, and stretching the psoas. It works as a great counterpose after sitting for a long time and helps to reset the pelvis.
Standing on your shins with knees hip-width apart, tuck the toes under, and place the hands on the waist. Lifting through the front body and pressing the sacrum forward and tailbone down, reach the inner thighs back. Stay here if this is enough or reach both hands back to heels. Lift through the top of the chest and optionally release the head back.
Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose, Variation
This pose quiets the mind, while also restoring the low back. It’s a great way to flush out the legs after flying.
Lie on the floor with your legs comfortably bent, allowing your calves to rest naturally on the edge of a chair or something similar. Adjust your position so you feel the natural curve of YOUR spine (a slight tilt in the pelvis and lift of the lower back) as you release into gravity. No need to press the lower back down, instead let the body land naturally. Take the arms out to the side, palms facing up. Close your eyes to relax the facial muscles. Send a message to the nervous system to quiet. Stay here for at least 5 minutes.
Note: This can also be done with legs up the wall, though this variation is a little gentler on the back.
About Our Experts
A yoga-based company emerging from the combined visions of Katelin Sisson and Heather Lilleston. Yoga For Bad People seeks out locations around the world that lend themselves to quiet time and reflection as well as a multitude of physical activities, athleticism, and nightlife. Their retreats provide a combination of the traditional yoga retreat with time for other activities.