Yoga Stretch Sequence for the Plane

Travel on a plane can do quite a number on our bodies. Unless, of course, you are Jennifer Aniston flying via Emirates with martini in tow. (Sorry Jen, I’m just not there yet.)

How can we maintain the open feeling we receive after a yoga class if we have been sitting for hours cramped in a coach seat that only a hamster can enjoy? Don’t stay stagnant on the plane! Here are some yoga poses you can do while in air transport to your next destination! These poses will open your neck, shoulders, back, spine, hamstrings and hip flexors.  All those areas that get tight after sitting for hours.

On my 6:30am flight back to New York today, from visiting my family in the architecturally beautiful city of Chicago I practiced the following yoga poses. I think I felt better getting off the plane than on!!

Please try them out and enjoy! I’ve inserted pictures and instructions on how to do them

Travel safe and healthy!

Let’s center before we begin:

Sit up tall in your seat. Soften your shoulders away from your ears. Close your eyes. Go inward. Take three cleansing breaths; inhaling through your nose to create space in your body, and exhaling through your mouth, releasing tension. If you would like, feel free to think of this as inhaling into love and releasing into self acceptance.

After your three cleansing breaths, begin to silently observe your normal breathing process. Without altering it, notice where the breath rises and falls in your body. Take a few moments to observe the pace, depth and any shifts in the cadence of your breath flow. Should any outside distractions arise to dissuade you from your focus, use your imagination to pop them in a cloud and let them float away as you come back your breath attention.

After a minute or so, begin deep calming breaths. Fill up the space in your body all the way from low belly to the collarbones. Include the back body. Allow the space between your vertebrae to expand. If you notice any area of tightness breath into it and allow it soften on the exhales. Explore this practice for at least 3-6 breaths. When you feel centered you are ready to practice some yoga on the plane!

Let’s begin!

Throughout each pose remember to:

1. Take 3-6 breaths (or more) throughout each pose.

2. Keep your spine long and strong.

3. Keep the crown of the head lifted maintaining the natural curve of the cervical spine.

4. Lift your belly button up towards your heart center and your heart center lifted towards the sky, while your lower ribs remain connected with the abs. Your chin should remain parallel to the floor.

5. In forward folds hinge from the hips keeping tailbone reaching down, spine long and avoid rounding the the back.

6. Remember, nobody’s watching you. They are either sleeping, farting or locked into their electronic devices.

Garudasana, Eagle Arms

Inhale your right elbow out in front of you to a 90 degrees, thumb side lined up with the middle of your head. Exhale. Inhale your left elbow up and lay it across your right arm. Line the elbows up with one another. The back of the hands can touch, or if you have the mobility, wrap the arms till the palms meet each other. Exhale, softening your shoulders away from your ears.Inhale your elbows in line with your shoulders and line your hands over with your elbows (drawing away from your head). With eyes open or closed take 3-6 calming breaths. When releasing out of the pose, come out the way you came it and take at least a beat with the arms rested before you repeat on the other side.

Gomukhasana arms. Cow face arms:

Inhale your right hand up towards the ceiling and exhale that same hand behind the upper back allowing it to fall between the shoulder blades, right elbow pointing up. In the opposite direction, bend the left elbow down inhaling the left hand up the spine to meet the right hand. The hands or fingers may or may not touch. If you have a scarf or sweater, put it between the hands grabbing it to find added length if need be. Take your calming breaths. With each inhale draw your hands closer to one another guiding, the top elbow up and toward the midline of the body, and the left shoulder back, while down elbow draws towards the spine, hand scooching up the back. Exhale to release out of pose and after a beat repeat on left side.

Pectoral stretch and heart opening

Arm can be extended or in cactus pose (elbow at 90 degrees with raised hand) depending on how much space you have. Inhale, sit up tall and extend one arm to the side. Draw your shoulders down and back. Keep the crown of the head lifting and look over opposite shoulder. Calming breaths.  Exhale to release out of pose and after a beat repeat on other side.


Lateral Neck Stretch

Inhale, lifting through the crown of you head and exhale your right ear to your right shoulder. Gently place your right hand above the left ear and softly flex the right fingers downwards and away from the head at the same time offering a gentle stretch to the left side of your neck.the shoulder draw back and down. Take your calming breaths. Move directly into the next stretch and then repeat on left side. Important! Do not come out of this pose the same way you came in.  See next stretch to come out of pose.

Anterior neck and posterior (not pictured) neck stretch

This stretch should follow directly after the lateral stretch. Staying where you are swivel your chin up while gaze moves to the side and skyward. Hand will shift more forward towards the front of you head to maintain staying center, drawing the neck open slightly with the help of the flexed fingers. Calming breath time. :>

Important! Do not come out of this pose the same way you came in. Instead roll your head to center, drawing your chin to your chest. Stay here for a moment releasing the back of the neck. Place hands over each other, palms facing down on the back of the head and take 3-6 calming breaths. To release out of this pose rise the head up through center.

Shoulder Stretch

Turn your palms up, bending at the elbows. Take the upturned palms elbow out to the sides, for an opening in the shoulders. Starting on the right side, maintain the shoulder opening and inhale the arms to a square shape over head. Wrap the left palm and fingers over the right elbow and exhale the shoulders away from the ears. Press the right elbow into the left hand. Calming breaths and centered mind. Stay high to switch sides. Exhale and release arms forward to come out.

Stand time!

If you feel self conscience about standing up in the isle, for what may seem, out of nowhere for the people around you, do what I did. Go to the bathroom, count to twenty and then come out. Feel free to do a headstand while you are in there.

Modified Dancer’s Pose

Hold onto the top of the chair in front of yours. Square off through all four corners of your feet (big toe mound, stretched out pinky toe and the inside and outside of your heel). Bend the outside knee (furthest from the chair) guiding the heel towards your same side glute and grab with your other hand. Lengthen your tailbone down, lift through the heart center and breathe calming breaths. Allow the hip to draw open in the front part of your body, while guiding the inner thighs towards the midline of the body.

If you are daring enough, move into full Dancer’s pose!

When switching sides turn to face the back of the plane and use your own chair for support. Feel like a Queen or King and smile at onlookers. You are showing them the way to self care! You rock!

Seated Twist

Inhale, palms together at heart’s center. Lengthen the spine and draw your shoulders away from the ears. Maintain this length throughout twist. Exhale to rotate torso lifting through the spine and spin your heart, palms and gaze toward the back of your chair. Twist mostly from upper back keeping legs and knees forward. Enjoy 3-6 calming breaths. Return to center on the exhale and repeat on other side.

Seated Extended hand to foot pose

This one you may only be able to do on one side, or not at all. It depends on how much your travel companions enjoy a foot in the face. Inhale and hug your inside row leg into your chest. Exhale bringing the same side hand to the outside of that foot. Open your hip out to the side and extend the leg out to the side. Flex the foot and shoot energy out through the heel. Turn your head in the opposite direction so you can only imagine the expression on your loved ones face is one of pure joy and loving support. Enjoy 3-6 calming breaths. On an exhale bend the knee and say thank you to the receiver of your foot. You may owe them a massage later.

Rock the Baby Pose.

Sitting tall, take your right ankle over the left knee. With palms facing up scoop inside the bent  leg to the outer side of your shin. Inhale and lift your shin towards your chest. Exhale to settle into the pose. Inhale and lengthen the spine. Exhale softening the hips, drawing your shin closer towards your chest. Use 3-6 calming breaths through the pose. Exhale and place the right ankle on the left knee again.  Stay here and move onto the next pose.

Seated Pigeon Pose

From the right ankle on left  knee, inhale and anchor the right knee down and lengthen through the spine. Exhale and with a long spine, from the tailbone to the crown of the head, hinge forward at the hips. Inhale your heart forward and continue journeying deeper into the pose with calming breaths. To and come out of the pose, exhale and rise up slowly with a straight back. Place your foot to the ground and repeat the last to poses on the other side.

Seal your practice with Savasana for five minutes

Place hands onto the thighs, face up or facedown, whatever the universe is calling for you to do. Close your eyes. Lean your back body towards your chair. Draw the shoulder blades towards each other. Then soften the shoulder tops away from the ears. Scan through the body, releasing muscles, from the toes and fingertips all the  way up to the crown of your head. Notice your breath rising and falling in the belly. Inhale love and exhale self acceptance. Be at peace with yourself and know that you are a powerful and unique person that has great gifts to offer to this world.


Christina Maldia

Founder of be,intheworldyoga

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