GET THE GUIDE: Yoga in the Air – The Zen of Flying

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Ah, the joys of travelling! Don’t we all just love the thrill of breaking from the daily routine, discovering new destinations and making new friends away from home? But as much as we love it, the reality is that travelling can be far from glamorous – before landing at our dream destination, we’re often huffing and puffing away as we rush to the airport, whizz through security and then reach our mode of transportation, where we’re often crammed into very tight spaces – cue the dreaded cramps and migraines. Our energy is often zapped before our feet have even left the ground!

Luckily, our resident yoga expert Michaela Olexova has come to the rescue with a simple in-flight routine which will help release any tension and stretch yourself straight into zen mode. Try it below.

Don’t you sometimes wish that you had a magic ring that would teleport you from the comfort of your home to your dream destination, cutting out all the packing dilemmas, early morning rush to the airport, never-ending queues for just about everything and hours of restrictive sitting position that don’t do your body & mind any good? Oh, did I mention crowds of people? Lots of crowds!

Yes, you guessed it. As much as I love travelling and exploring the far away lands, I am not particularly enjoying the whole process of getting there – flying being my least favourite. While I knew I wouldn’t compromise on my future adventures, I developed a personal routine that combines a series of yogic breathing and exercises that usually gets me from take off to landing without extra stress, anxiety and aching body.

“If we were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.” ~ Rachel Wolchin

If you are not among the lucky ones to travel in the first class, you will have to deal with the lack of space that can result in the physical distress, numb feet, strain neck or breathlessness. The long-haul flights can also disturb your sleep and influence your energy level upon your arrival, so it may take you a couple of days to pick yourself up and embrace the holiday spirit to the full – and that I call a real waste of time! Surely, the airline companies should know that a relaxed passenger is a happy passenger and bring the science of yoga on board? Whether you’ll find a yoga class as a standard practice on your next flight, I am not sure, but the Indian budget airline SpiceJet proved it can be done when they pleasantly surprised their passengers with a 10 minute in-flight yoga session. This was hosted by specially trained flight attendants who performed simple yoga exercises, as their new initiative to mark the first International Day Of Yoga on June 21.

It really doesn’t matter what stretches you chose to do, as long as you find a way to release the tension and open up your body to invite more space, freedom and sense of equilibrium head to toes. Remember that even the simplest postures and breathing exercises, when done mindfully, have a direct influence on the state of your mind. So, no matter what chaos you have to face during your travels, you always find the zen within you to deal with it.

Head & Mind :: Chandra Bheda Pranayama 

Using the left nostril in this breathing exercise which is energetically associated with the cooling energy of the Moon will help you release the tension and calm down.

  1. Close your right nostril and inhale deeply into your left nostril for the count of 3-4.
  2. Close your left nostril and exhale over the count of 6-8 through your right nostril.
  3. Repeat for 1-3 minutes focusing on your breath entering and leaving your body in a regular rhythm.


Neck & Shoulders :: Vishuddha / Throat Chakra Balancing 

This stimulating exercise helps release the tension and any blockages in your throat and neck as well as open your shoulders and upper chest increasing your energy level.

  1. Sit nice and tall with your spine straight.
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your head.
  3. Inhaling, push your elbows back and drop you head behind gently opening and stretching your throat and upper chest.
  4. Exhaling, pull your elbows forward drawing them together. Press your chin down on your chest and stretch the back of your neck.


Back & Spine :: Opening Spinal Twists (photo 3)

Allow your prana or life-force energy flow freely through your spine with this easy stretch that tones your spine, loosens your joints and massages your abdominal organs.

  1. Sit on the edge of your seat and cross your right leg over your left sitting with a straight spine.
  2. Grab your right knee with your left hand and bring your right hand on the armrest.
  3. Inhale deeply and on your exhale turn towards your right side.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths and then change your position and repeat on the other side.


Hips & Pelvis :: Supported Dancer’s Pose aka Natarajasana 

One of my personal favourite supported stretches on the plane when you go for a stroll or wait for a toilette! It stretches and strengthens your legs all the way from your hips to your ankles as well as opens your chest and spine.

  1. Stand about an arm distance away from the wall and press you right palm or forearm agains it to get a steady support.
  2. Bend your left knee and grab your ankle with your left hand.
  3. Inhaling, keep stretching your upper torso forward and parallel to the floor while lifting your foot towards the ceiling.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths and then repeat on the other side.


Legs & Feet :: Knee Lifts & Ankle Rolls 

Taking pressure of your knee and ankle joins and improving the blood circulation in your legs is the main benefit of this stretch. You can’t do enough of this exercise during your flight!

  1. Sit on the edge of your seat with your legs together, lift your right knee towards your chest hugging it comfortably.
  2. Flex and stretch your right foot for 5 breaths.
  3. Rotate your right foot clockwise (3x) and anti-clockwise (3x).
  4. Rest your right ankle on your left leg and open the right knee to the side and hold for 5 breaths.
  5. Repeat the whole sequence on the left leg as described above.


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