Nothing makes you feel stiff and sore quite like sitting on a plane. It’s why you sometimes see the boldest of the bold performing a whole yoga routine right there next to Sbarro in front of everyone. But, as it turns out, it is actually worth it to do a few poses after flying as a way to set yourself right.
Whether you’re heading home after a business trip or touching down at a vacation spot, it never hurts to stretch after a flight to loosen up sore muscles and reinvigorate your circulation, says Kate Lombardo, a yoga director and instructor at YogaRenew Teacher Training. “Long hours of air travel leave the body feeling tight from being in the same seated position for so long,” she tells Bustle. “Yoga poses are a great way to bring movement back into the joints [and to] help reduce any inflammation that sets in.” It can also feel like hitting a reset button on your brain.
If you want, you could do a few stretches in the waiting area, and some airports even have yoga rooms you can go to if you have time during a layover, Lombardo says. “Otherwise, waiting until you’re back home or at your hotel is a great option so you have time to not only relax the body, but the mind as well, which could be difficult to do among the hustle and bustle of a busy airport,” she says. Here, Lombardo breaks down the best moves to try after a flight.
“This is the perfect pose for reducing swelling in the legs and ankles that can happen following a long day of travel,” Lombardo says. “Plus, it helps to quiet the mind and can help with sleep, which comes in handy if changing time zones are messing with your sleep schedule.”
– Lie on your back on the floor or on a bed.
– Prop up your legs on the wall, letting the wall fully support the weight of them.
– Bring your hands to your belly, and focus on your breath.
– Stay for three to five minutes, or longer if you have the time.
2. Downward-Facing Dog
“Down dog is a great pose to open up the entire body,” she says. “It creates length in the spine and openness in the hamstrings — two areas that get very tight while sitting for hours on a plane or in a car.”
– Start on all fours.
– Walk your hands one handprint forward, and tuck your toes under.
– Lift up your hips and back, and focus on creating length from the palms of your hands all the way to your hips.
– Keep your spine straight and, if possible, straighten your legs.
– Feel free to pedal your heels up and down by bending one knee and then the other.
– Stay for five to 10 breaths or for as long as it feels good.
3. Child’s Pose With Prayer Hands
“This variation of child’s pose is great for releasing tension in the neck and shoulders that can happen when sleeping in strange positions while on the go,” Lombardo says.
– Start on all fours.
– Touch your big toes together, and bring your knees out wide.
– Shift your hips toward your heels, and bring your palms together.
– Bend your elbows, and take your hands behind your head.
– Breathe into the sides of your chest, and release your chest toward the floor.
– Stay in this pose for one to two minutes.
“Forward folds are the perfect way to release tension across the whole back body,” Lombardo says. “This pose is not only great for opening the hamstrings, but also for reversing gravity to help release the neck and space across the back.”
– Stand up tall, then fold forward from your hips.
– Bring your hands toward the floor.
– Shift so your hips are directly over your ankles, and feel free to keep a slight bend in your knees if needed.
– Stay for five to 10 breaths, or for longer if it feels comfortable.
5. Lizard Lunge Twist
“This pose helps to open the psoas and hip flexors, which can shorten and become tight from being stuck in a sitting position for a long period of time,” she says. “Plus, the twist aids in digestion, which is always needed when eating [new foods] on the go.”
– Come to a low lunge position.
– Keep your front knee stacked over your ankle and your back knee on the floor.
– Bring your hands inside of your front ankle, and press the inner thigh of your front leg away from you.
– Roll to the other edge of your front foot.
– Twist toward your front leg, and look toward the ceiling.
– Feel a stretch in your hips and spine.
– Stay for five to 10 breaths, then switch sides.
6. Bridge Pose
“Bridge pose is one of the best poses to do post-flight because it opens up the body in all of the places,” Lombardo says. “The hip flexors, quadriceps, back, and shoulders all get opened up here.”
– Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet hips-distance apart.
– Press into your feet to lift your hips toward the ceiling.
– Clasp your fingertips together underneath you, and stretch them toward your heels.
– Hug your shoulder blades together, and lift your chest toward your chin.
– Take five to 10 breaths.
7. Seated Spinal Twist
“Twists […] can aid in digestion to help keep you regular while traveling,” Lombardo says. “They also bring mobility to the spine, which helps to relieve any tension that builds up from sitting for extended periods of time.”
– Sit cross legged with a tall spine.
– Bring your right hand behind your back and your left hand across to your right knee.
– With each inhale, imagine getting taller and with each exhale twist more deeply.
– Repeat on the other side.