Asana in Altitude. The ONE Yoga Pose to Carry-On Your Next Flight.
Long-haul flights (think 8+ hours) seem to hold power over the clock. Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. When will it end? How can time move so slooooowly? Between the lack of space to sprawl out and limited options for longer periods of body movement, all hope seems lost for any form of activity. But, fear not. Yoga saves the day!
There is no need to pack a mat and towel to get stretchy above the clouds, because there is ONE single yoga posture that is travel friendly and works in small spaces! Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana) is the perfect carry-on for your next flight, and here are a few reasons why.
1. Realigns your spine by moving it in all four directions. Right, left, backward, and forward. These movements wake up the spine and allow it to communicate optimally to all systems of the body. Hello, airborne medicine!
2. Strengthens muscles throughout the body with tremendous benefits to the lower back and abdomen. (Don’t forget to suck your tummy!)
3. Helps release tension in the respiratory system.
4. Promotes proper kidney and spleen functions.
5. Helps with digestive function.
6. Opens up the chest and shoulders (which is why it’s SO important to keep your arms with your ears).
7. Trims waistline and helps to tone legs and buttocks. (Perfect for your next beach adventure!)
Doubting the magic?
Athletic-Minded Traveler’s Managing Editor has traveled to Tokyo, Taipei, Shanghai and Portugal in the last several years. On EVERY flight, she practices Half Moon Pose 4-8x during the flight. She is also the one Team member that hits the ground running the fastest and with the least amount of jet lag.
Doing it at 30,000 feet.
We recommend the galley area, or the area outside the bathroom – by the exit door. We always find space there. Pay closer attention to form versus depth. It’s not about a perfect pose.
So, let’s get moving.
There are FOUR parts to the pose. Bend right, left, forward and backward.
To start, keep your hands gripped tightly together and arms with your ears -- no gaps.
Squeeze your legs and distribute the body weight all over your feet (Don’t let the baby toes carry too much weight.). Ground your big toe down, engage your inner thighs and buttocks and then bring your attention to your hip alignment. “Two hips in one line.”
Keeping your chest up, continually breathe through your nose and eliminate any gaps between hands, arms, and head. Bend right and push your hips outside of the base of your feet to the left. Your breath (as always) is your secret weapon, so remember to breathe! Do this to the right and hold up to a minute. Then bend the other way.
Next is the forward fold into hands to feet pose (Pada Hasthasana). Keep stomach is sucked in tightly before and during the time you are pulling on your heels to lock your knees. Hold for 10-30 seconds.
Be sure to come up slowly, breathing in through your nose, and give yourself grace in the present moment. (You may even see Tweety Bird on an extra good day.)
Next is the backbend. This is the part that can present a real challenge when flying. We find that just doing this a little bit the first time … then progressing as we repeat the half moon sequence. So resume the stance, arms up overhead with your fingers interlocked, keep your eyes open and drop your head back. It is super important to keep your buttocks and legs squeezed tightly to support the lower spine and then gradually bring your arms back. Your body goes where the eyes focus so remember to keep them open as you breathe into the posture. Keep your abdomen engaged and slowly backward bend, your arms guiding you back. Breathe on your way back up and as you relax your arms downside.
Two sets of each side are the authentic Bikram Yoga standard, but our frequent flyer recommends two to three sets and one break as a way to ease long-flight back and body stiffness and jet lag. Keep it simple, keep it flowing, and don’t block the exit rows.
Lindsey Stanley contributed this piece. Lindsey is a certified Bikram Yoga instructor and strong yoga advocate. She tells us that "Yoga is my medicine and the countless health (mental/physical/emotional) benefits behind the authentic Bikram series personally sparked my passion for exploring yoga as a science both as a student and Certified teacher." Lindsey spreads her yoga-science enthusiasm to her students and organizations like PURE Action, the Art of Living, and Yoga4Homeless.