Traveling to a new part of the world can be fun and exciting. The tension that flying creates in our bodies is not. Try out these yoga postures next time you’re about to board a flight to reduce some of that unwanted tension and get to your final destination feeling a bit more rejuvenated in body and mind. Hold each yoga posture for 5-10 breaths on each side, where applicable. 

Woman in black performs the upward salute side bend yoga pose against a white wall back drop
A few simple yoga poses can ensure your body is comfortable on those long cramped flights © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Upward salute side bend

This variation on the traditional Upward Salute in Sun Salutation A helps stretch the the sides of the body, spine, armpits, shoulders, and the belly. It improves digestion which is great as flying takes a heavy toll on your gut.

Place your feet together with your arms at your side. Inhale and lift your arms over head and grab your left wrist with your right hand. As you exhale, shift your hips to the left and bend your torso to the right, pulling your left wrist with your right hand to create more space in the side body. Gaze under your left armpit.  

a woman in black performs a forward fold yoga pose on the backdrop of a white wall
The forward fold places your head below your heart, helping to ease tension in neck, back and spine © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Forward fold

Revitalizing and therapeutic, a forward fold places your head below your heart which allows for your blood to rush to your head providing a rejuvenating boost of oxygen. Sitting on an airplane causes a lot of tension in our neck, back, and spine, this yoga posture will help ease some of that tension.

Place your feet about hip-width distance and allow your chest to fold to your thighs and your head hang heavy. Bend your knees as much as needed so your chest is resting on your thighs. Grab opposite hand to opposite elbow, sway your torso back and forth, shake your head, give yourself time to let the blood rush in a new direction and let go of the tension in your upper body.

Woman in black performs the wide legged forward fold with twist yoga pose on a backdrop of a white wall
The wide legged forward fold with twist pose can help detoxify your internal organs giving your body a much needed rinse © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Wide legged forward fold with twist 

This yoga posture will help stretch your hamstrings, hips, calves, low back, and spine. The spinal twist will open up your heart center relieving some stress and anxiety while also detoxifying your internal organs giving your body a much needed pre (or post) flight rinse. 

Separate your feet wide, about 3-5 feet depending on your height. Place your hands on your hips and fold your torso forward keeping a long spine. Place your right hand out in front of you and lift your left hand toward the sky, bring your gaze to follow. Allow each inhale to create more length, and each exhale to move deeper into the twist. 

A woman in black performs the Skandasana or side lunge pose against a backdrop of a white wall
This yoga posture helps prepare your lower body for several hours of stillness © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Skandasana or side lunge

There’s not much in this world more uncomfortable than a seat on an airplane. This yoga posture will open your hips, lengthen your hamstrings, and get your lower body ready for several hours of stillness in the air. 

From that wide legged forward fold, start to shift your weight to the left side and bend your left knee, pivoting the toes outward if needed. Keep your right leg straight and flex your toes upward, resting on your right heel. Bring your hands to the floor for support, to your heart center, or find a twist by binding the hands around your bent knee. 

Woman performs the malasana squat yoga pose against a backdrop of a white wall
The Malasana Squat helps ground your body and aids in a sense of calm © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Malasana Squat or yoga squat

This grounding yoga posture will help aid in a sense of calm serenity while improving your digestion and strengthening your posture for the long flight ahead. It will also stretch your ankles, calves, thighs, hamstrings and open your hips.

Bend both legs so that your knees are pointing toward the ceiling and feet outward. Your calves should come close to touching the back of your thighs. Bring your hands to your heart and find a nice long spine. You can use your elbows to push against your knees creating more opening in the hips. 

Woman performs the eagle arms yoga pose on a backdrop of a white wall
The eagle arms pose can be even be performed in your seat to relieve some shoulder tension © Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Eagle Arms

Sitting upright on a flight for several hours is going to create a lot of tension in the shoulders. This yoga posture will ease the tension in your neck and stretch out your shoulders. You can even do this posture in-flight and probably wouldn’t end up victim to @passengershaming

Take your arms out in front of you, palms facing up. Wrap the right elbow under your left allowing the back of the hands to touch. If you have more flexibility you can wrap the hands so the palms touch. Bring your elbows to the level of your chin and feel the stretch throughout the shoulder blades.

Woman performs the legs up the wall yoga pose against the backdrop of a white wall
Try the legs up the wall pose pre and post flight to help with the swelling that naturally occurs on planes @ Minnie Morklithavong / Lonely Planet

Legs up the Wall 

This is an incredible yoga posture to do pre and post flight as it will reverse the flow of blood and reduce some of the tension and swelling that naturally happens when we fly. This posture is great for relieving low back pain. 

Find a wall and sit to the side of it, lower on to your back and swing your legs over head, resting them on the wall. Make sure that your lower back is connected to the earth and that your sit bones are connected the wall. Allow your arms to fall alongside your body, palms up and relax. 

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