Yoga for Flying

10th Aug 2022 - Michele Pernetta

The best yoga poses for long haul flights, the best yoga practices for jetlag and more in this Q&A with FG founder Michele Pernetta

With holidays back on our calenders, how can yoga help regular fliers?

Flying allows us to widen our horizons, reconnect with friends and family and get rest, sun and a change of scenery.

However there are some downsides, such as jet lag, stiffness from being cramped up and dehydration. Some say that energetically moving so fast, as well as increased radiation from the altitude can make us feel enervated.

Having a yoga practice is a useful preventative for issues to do with flying, such as cramp, stiffness, swelling from poor circulation, and even for reducing the likelihood of vein issues as yoga can maintain the elasticity of the tissues around the veins. A regular yoga practice opens the fascia (the connective tissue that runs like a web throughout the entire body) and improves general circulation, so that when flying you already have better circulation and lymph drainage.

By adding a few yoga movements to your flight. You can boost your circulation. Keeping moving while on a flight can help prevent DVT as well as stiffness. So don’t be shy - stand up and do some yoga stretches.

What type of yoga is best to relieve jetlag?

Many people swear by getting off a plane and getting to a yoga class as soon as they can as it seems to have an amazing effect on jetlag. Usually after all the rush of getting ready to fly, the body and mind need calming and relaxing, so a gentler class is probably more grounding and relaxing.

Jetlag can make us feel very enervated. Some people love an energizing yoga class to get their metabolism kick started and their circulation boosted, others prefer a relaxing class with some deep breathing and centering, to bring them back to a grounded feeling. Either way, getting some movement, deep breathing or stretching to relieve tension is beneficial to speed up the body’s ability to return to it’s normal rhythms.

The body operates on a biological schedule known as the Circadian clock. Seeing daylight at specific times of day helps set this clock and flying across time zones with the daylight occurring at different times can disrupt sleep patterns.

There is a yoga practice for jetlag which is to spin (Sufi style twirling) in the opposite direction to which you flew. This practice is said to correct the disturbance to the electromagnetic fields that have occurred by flying long distances.

Start slowly and stop before you feel dizzy. Stand with your arms out to the sides shoulder height. Your head is North, left hand is East and right hand is West. If you flew East to West you would twirl turning to the left. Spin slowly for about a minute, or as long as you can. You can check out the book Twirling and Jetlag by the Adi Da Samraj for more information on this practice.

What can we do on long haul flights to help relieve muscle tension and stiffness?

Here are 3 effective poses to relieve stiffness you can do on a plane, and a 4th to aid sleep when you land.

1. Seated Pigeon

Stay seated and place your right ankle across your left knee and let your right knee drop down, it may go as low as parallel with your left. Left foot flat on the floor. Flex your right foot. Lean forward until you feel a stretch through your right hip, buttock and lower back. One can add a twist by placing ones right arm at ones right foot or knee in this position and twisting to the left to release even more tension from the lower back and hip. Repeat on the other side.

2. Forward Fold

Go to the back of the plane and with feet hip width apart bend your knees and fold forward keeping your abdomen and chest touching your legs. Hang down there, you can hold your elbows for a nice release of shoulders. Let your head hang. bend your knees more or less to feel hips lower neck and hamstrings stretch, but keep your abdomen always touching your thighs to protect your lower back.

3. Yogi Twists

In your seat simply suck your stomach in and twist side to side like you're trying to look diagonally behind you, go left and right at any speed that suits you. This can ease lower back aches, and invigorate the abdominal area which can easily get sluggish eating unusual food on a plane and not moving enough.

4. Half Tortoise

Useful on arrival before bedtime. It helps one sleep as it brings circulation to the head and encourages deep slow breathing and thus quiets the mind.

Further read