Few things leave me feeling tighter, crunchier and with just an overall "ugh" in my body than a long day of flying. As life would have it, I have been spending a ton of time on planes and in airports lately. So to avoid the crunchiness and discomfort that often accompany me in my frequent cross-country journeys, I spend much of my layover time trying to move and stretch my body as much as possible. It is always incredible to me how just a little bit of movement can open the body and relieve tension and compression.
Typically, I walk from terminal to terminal just to get the blood flowing a bit and then I find a relatively clean spot kind of close to my departure gate and move through different asanas. There are so many poses that are beneficial during a long day of travel, but I tend to spend most of my time in variations of the following three. For me, they target all of the places and spaces that could use a little extra love.
Added bonus: watch what happens when you begin to stretch. Notice how the other travelers respond. Every time I do this, I see people start to stretch a bit themselves. Maybe it’s just a shoulder roll or two or a slight side bend or twist, but it’s something and I think that is just so awesome. Share the love.
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold)
This is pure love for your hamstrings and love back. This could be a bit intense at first, especially if you have already been on a plane, so be gentle, but try to remain in the pose for at least a few breaths. Watch the body start to open and relax the longer you stay here.
- Stand with your feet hip distance apart.
- Bend your knees slightly so that you can fold the upper body forward, hinging from the hips not the low back.
- As you inhale, rise up onto the fingertips, lifting the chest halfway and then as you exhale, try to maintain that length and fold forward again.
- Drop the weight of your head so that your neck is long.
- Keep your shoulders soft and draw the navel center in towards the spine to engage your core and support your low back.
- Try not to sink into the heels of the feet, but instead gently guide the weight more forward into the balls of the feet.
- Place the palms of the hands or the fingertips just in front of or to the side of the feet. Or, hold onto the elbows.
- It often feels really good to sway the upper body from side to side here.
- You can bend one knee at a time if that feels good, but be careful not to jam the knee back as you straighten the legs. Think of lifting the hips up to the sky.
- Stay here for at least five breaths before you slowly roll up to standing.
Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose)
This pose is like one stop shopping. It opens up the thighs and stretches the abdomen, chest and shoulders, while giving you the opportunity to create a bit of balance for your body. I notice that whenever I fly my balance tends to be a bit “off” the next day, but spending a few moments in this pose helps to restore that sense of equilibrium. It is not necessary to come into the full expression of this pose. Pay attention to how it feels and only go as far as you can while staying true to your intention here.
- Stand with your feet together.
- Bend your right knee and draw your right heel to your butt.
- Reach your right arm back with the palm facing to the right and your thumb pointing up to the sky.
- Take a hold of the arch of the right foot with your right hand.
- Bring the knees to kiss each other again and then begin to kick the shin back as you reach your left arm forward. If your balance just isn’t there, rest the left hand on a wall for support. Keep kicking the shin back and reaching the arm forward.
- Another variation is to keep the right heel at your bum and while drawing the thigh together, gently guide the knee back.
- Be very careful not to let the knee open out to the side in either variation.
- Stay for at least five breaths, maybe longer if you like, before carefully coming back up to standing and moving through the second side.
Agnistambasana (Double Pigeon)
This pose gets into the hips like no other, and after sitting on a plane for a few hours, the hips could probably use a little relief, a little more space. It also stretches the glutes and provides a nice release for the low back.
- Begin by sitting in a comfortable cross-legged seated position.
- Slide your left shin slightly forward so that you can stack your right shin directly on top of the left shin, so that the shins are parallel to each other. There should be a triangle of space in between your legs.
- Slide your right foot further over to the left so that your right foot is hovering out in space with the ankle more on the left knee/thigh area. This may cause your right knee to lift up higher into the air, but just try to let that be OK. Stay with it for a few breaths to see if this foot position draws the stretch deeper into the hip.
- Flex both feet so that the toes draw back towards the shins.
- If you feel like you would like a deeper stretch here, walk the hands forward so that you are folding over your legs. Keep the hips pressing back and down.
- Stay here for at least 5 breaths, but if you have time hang here for a few minutes before you change sides.
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