Backaches, anxiety, and feelings of claustrophobia are all common symptoms associated with the stress of the packing, schlepping, waiting and hurrying involved in travel. And travel can present the risk of more serious health threats including Deep Vein Thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the legs due to lack of circulation and dehydration. So what’s a yogic traveler to do? Try these simple strategies and easy yoga stretches to help shield you from the effects of stress and inactivity when you travel:
1. Try to arrive at the airport well ahead of schedule so that you lower the risk of missing your flight. Then, with your extra time at the airport, you’ll be able to indulge in some “pre-flight yoga.” Find an un-crowded waiting area and stretch.
My favorites are basic shoulder poses to help me unwind from carrying luggage, standing one-legged balance poses to reset my core, and a variety of runner’s lunges using chairs for additional support.
While practicing, soothe your nerves with deep abdominal breathing. If you find yourself rushed or in a panic with spiking anxiety, remind yourself that the only thing you can control in this moment is your breathing. Don’t punish yourself for getting hyped up; forgive yourself (and the airlines) for losing control now and then!
2. Once on board, pull your Yoga Tune Up® Balls or Body Therapy Balls out of your carry-on so you can use them for an in flight back massage. You can start by placing them between your shoulder blades and gently wiggle your back from side to side while the balls massage across your upper back. Reset the balls in a new spot every 10 minutes or so and your kinks will be massaged out by the time you walk off the flight.
3. Choose an aisle seat so that you can walk along the aisle (carts permitting) and stretch your legs to pump blood through your whole system. During a long flight, the hamstrings, hip flexors and back muscles tend to become tense and congested from lack of movement.
4. Try to squeeze in another runner’s lunge (hip flexor stretch) or simple forward bend (hamstring stretch) in the galleys on the way to the onboard bathroom. The airline bathroom may be small, but I have been known to do jumping jacks to stir up my blood. I’ll then carefully arrange my body into a few creative sidebending poses, like the boomerang, which is also a great lower back stretch. And of course, throughout the flight, drink plenty of water.
5. Once you’re at your destination, make it a priority to calm down your nervous system from all of the stimulation. My favorite is the deeply tranquilizing Veeparita Korani Mudra (Legs up the Wall pose). It is very simple and a great de-stesser. Here’s a how-to video with detailed instruction on this pose, from the online Gaiam Yoga Studio with Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman.
- Lay on your back with your buttocks at the wall and prop up your pelvis with a block.
- Straighten your legs upright against the wall so that they are supported by the wall.
- Inhale through your nose filling from belly to throat.
- Imagine your breath is like a cascading waterfall as it fills from your belly to your heart, and finally pauses at the throat.
- Slowly exhale then repeat (5-10 minutes).
Resume your yoga practice the next morning, whether it’s with a yoga DVD you’ve brought along, a live class you found in your destination city, or an online yoga class or how-to video. You’ll feel much more regulated, balanced and ready for your day.