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Yoga on the fly ✈️: stretches to do while travelling

Travelling is great! Exploring new places, meeting new people and cultures, eating new food, feeling new climates, wearing a different wardrobe maybe... getting out of your “daily routine”.

I mean that’s why we go away - to get away from the normal and experience something new. But our bodies get used to eating, sleeping and doing what they normally do so it can be a bit uncomfortable at times.

Something I’ve found has really helped me when I travel is yoga. A “regular” practice helps you be more in tune with what your body wants and needs, so trying to keep some mindful movement on your adventure helps you stay balanced as you cross time-zones, state-lines and language barriers.

Learning to know when you feel tired, stiff, hungry, thirsty, jet-lagged, groggy and knowing what YOUR body needs to deal with this is important and not always as easy as it may sound.

Top tips when travelling

  1. DRINK - water ideally, but keep yourself hydrated, aeroplane air is dry and water helps your body keep cell function at its best, if your pee isn’t pale you’ve failed! 

  2. TRY NOT TO EAT TOO MUCH - it’s hard when your awake for 27 hours but try not to compensate with a tonne of sugar and caffeine (yep we’ve all done that, you feel crappy!)

  3. SLEEP - take a neck pillow (or somebody you can lean on) and try to get an hour or so - definitely catch a movie but also try to catch some Z’s.

  4. MOVE A LITTLE (or a lot) - roll your ankles and wrists, get up, walk about, stretch your arms over head, stretch out your legs and hips. Be that annoying person that asks to get up every couple of hours; take care of yourself first - that’s what they say in the safety briefing after all!

  5. PACK PROPS - If you can find one, pack a little massage ball or even just a tennis ball (borrow one from the dog!) to help roll out sore feet from stomping around the airport. It can really help open up shoulders and glutes after lots of sitting/driving/carrying bags.

  6. DRESS SMART - I always travel in yoga pants, leggings or Lycra. Actually I live in yoga pants, but if you are a bit more stylish and chic than me, still try to wear something that your body can breathe in - both for the sweat factor and also circulation, particularly in the legs. Tight jeans that cause restrictive creasing around the upper legs are the worst. Allow your skin to breathe, your blood to flow and you’ll feel a whole lot better after your flight TRUST ME!

Stretches to do from the comfort of your seat

There are a number of stretches you can do from the 'comfort' of your aeroplane seat helping maintain circulation and avoiding stiffness.

These side stretches shouldn’t be too invasive on your neighbours but can also be done in the aisle if you prefer. Shoulder, chest and elbow openers can be done in your seat for sure 📷️

Your hips can get really tight while sitting in transit. Working on both the external rotation of the hips (pigeon - the fold adds intensity) themselves but also releasing tension in the glutes and back (hugs and twists) can work wonders. They should have you walking off the plane in a straight line at least!

More shoulders! I always take my infinity strap away with me to help connect my hands/feet in many poses. Cow face arms is a glorious shoulder and chest opener.

I always take my spikey massage ball with me: you can roll the feet, or as pictured here lean into your chair back getting into the shoulders or lower down the back or even sitting on it to really get into those glutes!

Bonus stretches for the back of the plane

A little trickier in your chair but if you can find a bit of space at the back of the plane (or if you’re up in first class) here are some bonus stretches to add into your mile-high stretch. Points for every funny look you get from people wishing they were taking care of themselves as well as you.

There is nothing like a supported forward fold! Rest your upper back against the wall let your hips be high but knees soft and just leeaann! Also walls are great for supporting hands and shins in these two lunges opening hamstrings and hip flexors.

Seated twists with one leg tucked under with the top leg either besides the shin or crossed to outside of thigh works the hips, glutes, spine and belly. Puppy pose against a wall is awesome for opening the chest, and bound angle gets into the external hip rotators again! Sitting against the wall allows you to take the balance out of it to really relax the legs.

Puppy pose face down is also totally awesome but maybe save it for a quiet corner! Legs up the wall is just so great after a long day of stomping streets or sitting on planes. Allowing the legs to drain, the blood to flow back to the hips and heart for circulation with the help of gravity and helps your lower back rest down. Also pictured: my trusty spikey ball and infinity strap.

Happy travels! 📷✈️

Read next > Lizzie's previous article on creating your perfect home practice.

By Lizzie Higgins

Lizzie is a yoga teacher based in the south-west of England. You can follow her yoga adventures on Instagram (with Max the dog!) @yogawithlizziehiggins

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