• Barbara Newman

Airplane Yoga: Relief for the Weary Body

Updated: Dec 29, 2019

(Consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this yoga program to determine if it is right for your needs. If you experience any pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider.)

How many times do you wish you could feel lighter and looser in an airplane seat? The seats get smaller, and we adjust. Flights can be more enjoyable with the practice of yoga in your seat without a mat. Here are some postures to try on your next flight. Whether in coach or business, your body will thank you for moving and breathing. If it’s a long trip, yoga can be done several times or whenever your body feels tight. The following postures can be done in one practice or select the ones that work for you.


You might download your favorite yoga music ahead of time. When you are ready to practice, you can plug in your ear buds, if you like.


Sit with healthy alignment and good posture. Sit on your sit bones with your ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, knees over heels. Feet are hip width apart. Use this postural alignment throughout the practice, unless directed differently.


Look inwards, perhaps shutting down your eyes, and tune into your breath. Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Inhale for a count of 3 and exhale for a count of 6. As you inhale, feel your belly and chest expanding with air like a balloon. As you exhale, notice your belly and chest moving back and softening.


Sit up, feet flat on floor, arms hanging at sides. Breathe, push feet into floor and sit bones into chair. Pull navel toward spine, lift chin and chest slightly. Push fingers toward floor, crown of head toward sky. Take 5-7 breaths.


Sit up, feet flat, ears over shoulders, shoulders over hips, and knees over heels.

Inhale your shoulders up and exhale them back and down. Repeat 3x.


Inhale right ear to right shoulder. Exhale as you lift your head up and then lower it back gently. (Avoid compressing your neck.) Inhale left ear to left shoulder. Exhale chin to chest. Repeat on the other side.

Wrists and ankles

Point and flex feet and hands 3x.

Rotate feet and hands away from each other 3x. Rotate them toward each other 3x.

Child’s pose

Think tall. Lean forward. Place forearms on thighs bending forward. (Option: Place elbows on knees with right hand holding left elbow and left hand holding right elbow.) Place weight onto thighs. Inhale through lower back and feel shoulders expanding to the sides. Take 3 breaths.

Exhale and move hands slowly to tops of thighs, press down and lift spine back to upright position.

Forward fold

Inhale and gently press hands on thighs. Lift chin and chest and move navel toward spine. Exhale and bring chest toward thighs and slide hands down to shins or ankles. Take 3 breaths.

Exhale and bring hands slowly to thighs, press down and lift spine back to upright position.


Place hands on side of seat and look over your shoulder. Take 3 to 5 breaths. Repeat on the other side. Move hands back to thighs. Twists cleanse and massage internal organs.


Place hands on thighs. Rotate hips to the right 3x. Pause and rotate left 3x.

Shoulder-hip twist

Place hands on thighs. Move right shoulder toward left lip. Be aware of your breath. Repeat on the other side.

Cat Cow

Sit with back straight, feet flat on the floor, hip width apart. Hands on thighs, palms down, fingers pointing forward. Inhale bend elbows to the side, turning hands so fingers point toward each other. Push into hands and feet, pull navel back to spine, arch upper back, lower chin to chest.

Exhale push feet into floor, turn hands so fingers point forward and push hands into thighs, lift chest and chin, push hips back, and move spine toward navel. Repeat 3-5x



Place hands at sides. Raise and lower feet alternating right and left like marching 5-7x.

Windshield wipers

Place hands on knees. Move knees side to side like windshield wipers 5-7x.


Sit forward in seat. Press heels of hands into chair seat beside hips. Move feet back and press into toes. Lift chest and slide shoulder blades down back. Take 3-5 breaths. Exhale relax arms, lower chin to chest, begin lowering movement at upper spine one vertebra at a time, sink tailbone into chair.

Figure 4 hip opener

Cross right ankle over left knee. Flex right foot. Push right knee down gently with right hand. Take 3 breaths. Repeat on other side. Move both feet back to floor.

Alternate Nostril Breathing

Place peace fingers on third eye. Rotate to the right 3x. Place right thumb on right nostril and close it. Inhale through left nostril. Close left nostril and exhale through right nostril. Continue for 3 more rounds. Notice how calm you feel afterward.


Shut down your eyes. Turn your head side to side. Inhale a breath from the crown of your head to your heart filling yourself with compassion. Inhale the next breath from your shoulders down to your fingertips filling yourself with relaxation. Inhale the next breath from your crown, chest, belly, legs, and out through your toes filling every cell with peace. Let all be. Allow only the purest of thoughts. Enjoy the next 5 to 10 minutes receiving all the benefits of your practice.

Airports such as Miami, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas/Ft Worth, San Francisco, San Diego, and Amsterdam have yoga meditation rooms. With long layovers, yoga might be an option. Travel yoga mats fold and can easily be packed into a carryon suitcase, taking up minimal space. Yoga can be practiced where you are staying, or you might even try a yoga studio. If you’re in a foreign country, look for classes in your language. It’s fun to experience yoga in a foreign setting and explore the yoga culture all over the world. Namaste. Bon Voyage!

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