I think of flying as ‘down time’ and actually find it quite relaxing. Think about it. Once you get through the busy airport and are settled in your seat, there’s nowhere to go until you arrive at your destination—no household chores to get through, no phone calls or text, and work is on hold (unless you absolutely have to open your laptop to finish a report or something). It’s actually quite a good time to practice yoga. And there are plenty of simple exercises you can do right there in your seat. You can even meditate.
One of my favorite exercises is Shoulder Rolls—making forward and backward circles. I’m sure you know how tight your shoulders, neck, and back muscles can get from carrying your bags through the airport. Shoulder Rolls are perfect for that. Neck Exercises (turning your head from side to side, up and down, and ear to shoulder) are great too if you wake up from a nap with a stiff neck. Do them slowly and methodically. There’s no rush. Add a little neck massage to any sore spots. Notice how your body responds when you take the time to do these exercises slowly and consciously. You can also do hand and wrist exercises—clenching your fists then stretching out your fingers, as well as wrist rotations and bending your hands up and down.
On long flights, it’s especially important to move the lower limbs—ankle rotations, pointing and flexing your feet, and scrunching and stretching your toes keep you from getting stiff (I recommend taking off your shoes). A seated Cannonball, bringing one knee toward your chest, then the other, also helps keep circulation moving in the legs which can help prevent blood clots.
Waiting to use the restroom is a good excuse for some standing stretches as well, like our asana of the week: Tiptoe Stretch. Though you probably won’t be able to reach your arms straight up, you can raise your arms while holding opposite elbows.
Flying is also an excellent time to practice japa meditation.* I find my beads a great comfort on a plane—something deeply familiar when I’m out of my element. I can close my eyes and go within, repeating the soothing Yoga Sounds to myself and finding peace. So elevate your practice and do some yoga in the air.
*If you don’t know how to do japa meditation, you can learn with my Easy Meditation for Everyone Kit, which includes a set of beads.)