Photo by Lesly Juarez via Unsplash

Although long hours on a flight mean you’re headed somewhere far away, the situation itself isn’t always ideal. Whether you are flying business or economy class, it takes just a couple of hours before you will start feeling sluggish, have stiff muscles and possibly a mild lower back pain due to the lack of physical activity.

Many experienced travellers and physicians often advise doing a bit of stretching when you are up in the air to keep your muscles activated. But it’d be rather embarrassing, if in the middle of a flight, you get yourself into a fancy yoga pose in the aisle. To avoid such a scenario, we got Zafigo sub-editor and yoga enthusiast, Tengku Zai, to share some yoga postures that do the job of keeping you your muscles limber without making a fool of yourself.

Keep yourself active and rejuvenated with these 11 easy yoga variations the next time you are on-board a long haul flight:

1. Dandasana

Going with the alternative name of staff pose, Dandasana is what most yogis would call the a warmup pose. Although the asana may look like you are simply sitting upright, there’s a lot of more to it. Dandasana helps in improving your body posture and alignment and also in strengthening your back and core muscles which often feel tight during a long flight. Following a rhythmic breathing pattern during the asana will eventually calm the mind and reduce stress levels.

Dandasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1.Sit erect on your seat with your back straightened and your legs parallel to each other. Align your head with your body in a way that it faces the front of the airplane.

2.Place your palms on your thighs or next to you to provide support to your spine.

3.Relax your body and breathe normally.

4.Hold the pose for 20-30 seconds and repeat a few times.

 2. Marichyasana

A common complaint most flyers have during a long flight is a slight pain in the back and hip region due to the long hours of sitting down. If you experience similar issues, Marichyasana will do you good. Along with being an easy one, this asana helps in stretching your shoulder and spine and in relieving you of a mild back pain.

Marichyasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1.Start in Dandasana

2.Place your right leg over the left one and twist your torso in the opposite direction. To make sure that the twist is deep enough to stretch your muscles, your head should ideally face your head rest.

3.Rest one arm on the knee of the right leg and other arm on the airplane seat if you need more support while stretching.

4.To further deepen your twist and to get more leverage, gently lift the foot of the leg on the floor on your toe.

5.Hold the position for 20- 30 seconds and repeat in the opposite direction.

 3. Gomukhasana

During a long flight, your back and shoulders are likely to get tense y or sometimes suffer jerks during a turbulent flight. The best way to loosen up and relax your back and shoulder muscles is through Gomukhasana. Also called the face of cow pose, this asana is highly recommended for stretching your shoulders, triceps and chest.

Gomukhasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1.Sit upright in your sit.

2.Raise your left arm above your head and bring it down to the centre of your back.

3.Now sweep your right arm behind your arms and make an attempt to hook finger or lock your hand with the left arm (use a towel or blanket if you can’t reach).

4.Raise your feet and get on your toes to further elongate your torso for a more effective stretch.

5. Hold the pose for 20 seconds and repeat by alternating arms.

4. Garudasana

Garudasana is an advanced yoga standing position that improves balance, concentration and strengthens a large group of muscles including those of the lower and the upper body. Since a standing posture might be difficult to achieve on a moving airplane, here’s how to perform this asana in your seat.

Garudasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1. Sit upright in your seat or in Dandasana.

2. Now extend your arms in front of your body and drop your left arm under your right arm.

3. Gently bend your elbows and raise your forearms perpendicular to the floor. Wrap your arms and hand around each other and join the palms of your hands together.

4.Pull your chest up and tuck your belly in. Hold the position for a minute, while gazing at your thumbs. Then unwind your arms and repeat on the opposite side.

Tip: For better results, bring your thumbs to forehead centre.

5. Virasana

After two or three hours abroad a flight, leg cramps soon become your arch nemesis. Virasana, or Hero Pose, is the answer to alleviating these cramps. Traditionally, this asana is done in either a seated or reclining position, this standing version will help you stretch your quads.

Virasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)


Airplane variation steps:

1. Stand upright in the aisle of the plane during a non-turbulent phase, like when waiting for your turn to use the lavatory.

2. Hold the back of a seat or wall for support, and raise your right leg upwards, bent at the knee, foot towards your bottom.

3.With your right hand, hold the toe of your right foot. Keep your upper body relaxed and breathe normally.

4.Hold the posture for 30 seconds and alternate with your left leg.

6. Vriksasana

There’s nothing better than a good stretch to get all your muscles activated and to help your body feel less stiff. Vriksasana, also known as tree pose, is the will stretch your body from toes to fingers. This yoga pose also helps to improve blood circulation and prevents you from feeling sluggish.

Vriksasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1. Stand erect, keeping the feet together.

2. Lift the right leg and place it at the top of you inner left thigh with the toes of your right leg pointed downwards.

3. Place one hand on a nearby backseat of a chair or hold yourself against a wall if you need support.

4. For better results, raise your arms upwards in a Namaste mudra.

5. Try to balance on the pose for a minute before switching legs.

7. Padangusthasana

If you are someone who suffers from a sore back or are experiencing heavy tension build up in the lower back and calves, Padangusthasana will go a long way to relieve those aches. It’s also asy and simple to perform.

Padangusthasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
 Airplane variation steps:

1.Stand erect with your feet parallel to each other and body upright.

2.Now bring your body down in a manner that your head is between the knees and hold on to the big toe with your index and middle fingers.

3.For a deeper stretch, you can even grab the back of your ankles.

4.Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then release the pose to come back to starting position.

5.Repeat the pose three to five times for a good stretch of the spine and calves.

8.Bitilasana (Cow Pose)

Bitilasana helps to warm up the spine. It also helps in massaging the belly organs. This asana is normally done on the knees, but this seated version will help you in stretching and strengthening the spine.

Tip: This asana is often done on an inhale before transitioning into the Marjaryasana. (below)

Bitilasana (Photo Credit: Zafigo)


Airplane variation steps:

1.Seat yourself in Dandasana.

2.Stretch your arms behind your back. As you do so, inhale deeply and lift your chest towards the ceiling. Lift your head to look up towards the cabin ceiling.

3.You can exhale and go into transition with the Marjaryasana or hold the pose for five breaths.

9. Marjaryasana (Cat Pose)

Similar to the Cow pose, Marjaryasana is an easy asana to stretch the muscles of the back and the abdomen.  Although a basic yoga pose, it improves core strength and if practiced regularly helps create emotional balance.

Marjaryasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)


Airplane variation steps:

1.Start in Dandasana.

2.Extend your arms in front you, keeping the fingers locked together. As you do so, exhale and arch your back pushing your chest and abdomen toward the back of the airplane seat.

3.You can inhale and transition into Bitilasana or hold the pose for five breaths.

10. Janu Sirasana

If you get lucky on your flight while flying economy and get a whole row to yourself, use the extra space to get into janu sirasana. The posture may be slightly difficult to maintain for beginners but this particular asana helps to stretch almost the entire body, improves balance, flexibility and stimulates the nervous system.

Janu Sirasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:
1.Sit facing to the side with your legs stretched out and your back erect.
2.Stretch your left leg from the hip joint and bend your right knee, placing the foot of your right leg on your left inner thigh. Like a seated vriksasana.
3.Inhale and extend your entire spine.
4.Now raise your arms , bend forward from the base of the hip and try to reach for your toes or whatever your comfortable maximum is.
5.Hold the pose and breath deep and slow.
6.Slowly inhale and release the pose. Get back to the sitting position, relax for a seconds and repeat on other side.

11. Parsva Tadasana

After a long flight when you are ready to disembark, this Parsva Tadasana variation makes for a good side and torso stretch, focusing on the obliques and abdominal muscles.
Parsva Tadasana (Photo Credit: Xin Lee/ Zafigo)
Airplane variation steps:

1.Stand with your foot a feet apart from each other.

2.Place your left arm along the side of your left hip and lift your right arm upwards.

3.Bend to the left as much as you can or until you can feel a nice stretch in your oblique muscles.

4.Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Inhale and come up as you exhale. Repeat on the other side.

 ** Disclaimer : Please consult your physician before starting any new exercise regime.

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