You have a long distance travel coming up and you’re worried. Your back, neck and shoulder pain is telling you that this flight is going to be a challenge.
First of all, let me assure you that there is no need to worry. With very simple exercises covered in this article, you can take care of yourself while traveling to ensure your back, neck, and shoulder pains don’t ruin your travel. Mindful movements with breath and body synchronization can calm the mind, stretch and relax your muscles, reduce stress, and ease the anxiety of flying. In fact, long flights are a good opportunity to slow you down, provide a much needed time to meditate, and make your journey comfortable and enjoyable.
Try these simple yet powerful yoga exercises on your next journey. You’ll be glad you did.
Warning: Every person is different. It is imperative that you consult your doctor, physical therapist or your yoga therapist to learn and understand how to determine the limits. Always listen to your body!
More than the exercises themselves, Yoga is about developing awareness and providing deep rest to the body and mind, especially to the areas of the body and mind that are of concern. Relaxation is as important as the movements.
Tiger Stretch Breathing Variation (Seated Spinal Rolls):
This easy spine-stretching exercise can be done in your airplane seat or while sitting in a waiting area.
While inhaling, depress your spine and look upwards. Exhale, arch your spine upwards, tuck your chin into your chest. Repeat 8-10 times. Relax completely and observe the minor changes.
Caution: Be gentle with your spine if you have severe back pain, and avoid jerky moves.
Benefits: Great for people with back pain. It releases the tightness from your back and increases flexibility in your spine.
While seated, place your hands behind your lower back, holding one wrist with another hand. Inhale and lean back slightly. Exhaling, bend forward as much as you can and try to touch your head to your knee. Repeat 5-6 times.
Caution: People with hypertension, sinus problems, migraine attacks and positional vertigo may exercise caution. Practice without fully bending down or avoid as suggested by your yoga therapist.
Benefits: Recommended for patients with anxiety. Great for back pain and overall stress management.
While inhaling, raise your shoulders and try to touch them to your ears. Exhale and drop your shoulders as low as possible. Repeat 6-8 times. After completion, perform shoulder rotations by first raising the shoulders with inhalation, then expanding the chest so that the shoulder blades touch each other at the back. Exhale and bring them down. Repeat clockwise and anti-clockwise 6-8 times each direction.
Caution: People with severe shoulder pain should avoid jerky movements and be gentle.
Benefits: Great for people with shoulder pain and back pain.
Inhale and raise your chin upwards. Exhale and slowly bring your chin to your chest. Repeat 6-8 times.
Inhale and turn your head to the right. Exhale and bring it to the center. Inhale and turn your head to the left. Exhale and bring it to the center. Repeat 6-8 times.
Inhale and tilt your head to the right. Exhale and bring it to the center. Inhale and tilt your head to the left. Exhale and bring it to the center. Repeat 6-8 times.
Tuck your chin into your chest. While inhaling, tilt your head to the right and drop your head back. Exhale and tilt your head to the left and return your chin to your chest Repeat the rotations 6-8 rounds clockwise and anticlockwise.
Caution: People with severe neck pain or spondylosis should exercise caution. One can practice only half rotation as in a pendulum if full rotation is hard.
Benefits: Excellent neck loosening and good for people with neck and shoulder problems.
Half Butterfly (Ardha Baddha Konasana):
Rest your right ankle on top of your left thigh and hold your right foot with your left hand. Lower your right knee and push it down gently with the help of the right hand. Hold, then slowly pull it upwards. Repeat the up and down movement 6-8 times with both legs.
Benefits: General hip loosening for all. A great practice for those with knee pain due to osteoarthritis.
Sit tall on the edge of your seat. Slowly raise your right leg up as much as possible, then bend your right knee and hold it while interlocking your hands. While inhaling, pull your knee towards your chest and drop your head back. Exhaling, pull it further and raise your head so that the forehead touches the knee. Hold for 10-20 seconds while breathing normally. When finished, release and relax. Repeat 6-8 times on each side.
Caution: People with neck pain should not engage in neck movement.
Benefits: Great for alleviating back pain and increasing circulation in the lower back, hip, knee, and legs. Other benefits include improvement of digestion and gastrointestinal disorders/IBS, and stimulation of the vital organs.
Inhale and point your toe. Exhale and flex your toe. Repeat 6-8 rounds. Then, stretching the leg out in front of you, get your blood flowing by rolling the ankle in a circular motion both clockwise and anticlockwise several times with breath awareness. Repeat with the other foot.
Seated Spinal Twist:
Sit up tall and grab the sides of your seat. With exhalation, twist your torso to the right and hold for 10-20 seconds. Breathe normally. Release and relax back to the center. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: This works the chest, shoulders, and spine and may help with constipation during travel.
Folded Leg Seated Spinal Twist:
Sit on the edge of your seat. Gently place your right knee over your left knee and interlace them, if possible. Lay your left hand on your right knee. Inhale and sit as tall as possible. As you exhale, turn towards your right. Breathe deeply and hold this position for five breaths. Don’t hold your breath. Repeat on the other side.
Benefits: Great for people who have tightness or pain in the lower back. It helps to alleviate spinal pressure or strain.
Sahaja Pranayama (Watching Your Breath):
Sit in a comfortable position with your back and neck straight and relaxed. Close your eyes and observe your breath. Observe the temperature changes in your nostrils and throat check this site out. Slowly move your awareness to your lungs and observe the expansion and contraction as you breathe. Trace the breath from the tips of your nostrils to the bronchioles in the lungs (linear awareness).
Tip: Count to 27 while exhaling to keep the awareness on your breath.
Benefits: Great for all ailments, especially stress management.
Nadi Shuddhi/Anuloma Viloma Pranayama (Alternate Nostril Breathing):
Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril. Inhale deeply through the same (left) nostril. Close the left nostril with the ring finger and exhale completely through the right nostril. Inhale deeply through the same (right) nostril. This completes one round of Nadi Shuddhi pranayama. Repeat 9-11 rounds.
Caution: Do not draw air through nostrils forcefully. You may hurt your sinuses and get headaches. People with shoulder pain may switch hands. Not recommended for severely blocked nostrils or deviated nasal septum. If asthma patients feel tired with this practice, they can do Sahaja Pranayama (breath watching).
Benefits: Good for all ailments. It calms down the mind and balances the entire physiology.
Lay down or recline your seat, and place pillows behind the back and neck. Extend the legs and let the feet fall comfortably apart, toes pointing outwards. Place the hands on your lap or armrests. Close your eyes, breathe deeply, and let go of any remaining tension. Allow your thoughts to drift out of the nearest window and float away on a nearby cloud. After 10 or 15 minutes of relaxation, deepen the breath, wiggle the fingers and toes, and reflect on how refreshed you feel.
For long-distance travel, yoga in flight is just the ticket! You will be energetic as you disembark feeling relaxed, invigorated, and ready to greet your destination with a smile.