Backaches, anxiety, and feelings of claustrophobia are all common symptoms associated with the stress of the packing, schlepping, waiting and hurrying involved in travel. And travel can present the risk of more serious health threats including deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the legs due to lack of circulation and dehydration. So what’s a yogic traveler to do? Try these simple strategies and easy yoga stretches to help shield you from the effects of stress and inactivity when you travel:

1. Try to arrive at the airport well ahead of schedule so that you lower the risk of missing your flight. Then, with your extra time at the airport, you’ll be able to indulge in some “pre-flight yoga.” Find an un-crowded waiting area and stretch.jill-standing-bridge-arms

After carrying luggage, interlace your hands behind your back and raise them up for Standing Bridge Arms pose.

My favorites are basic shoulder poses to help me unwind from carrying luggage, standing one-legged balance poses to reset my core, and a variety of runner’s lunges using chairs for additional support.

While practicing, soothe your nerves with deep abdominal breathing. If you find yourself rushed or in a panic with spiking anxiety, remind yourself that the only thing you can control in this moment is your breathing. Don’t punish yourself for getting hyped up; forgive yourself (and the airlines) for losing control now and then!

2. Once on board, pull your Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Balls out of your carry-on so you can use them for an in flight back massage. You can start by placing them between your shoulder blades and gently wiggle your back from side to side while the balls massage across your upper back. Reset the balls in a new spot every 10 minutes or so and your kinks will be massaged out by the time you walk off the flight.

3. Choose an aisle seat so that you can walk along the aisle (carts permitting) and stretch your legs to pump blood through your whole system. During a long flight, the hamstrings, hip flexors and back muscles tend to become tense and congested from lack of movement.

4. Try to squeeze in another runner’s lunge or simple forward bend in the galleys on the way to the onboard bathroom. The airline bathroom may be small, but I have been known to do jumping jacks to stir up my blood. I’ll then carefully arrange my body into a few creative sidebending poses, like the boomerang, which is also a great lower back stretch. And of course, throughout the flight, drink plenty of water.

5. Once you’re at your destination, make it a priority to calm down your nervous system from all of the stimulation. My favorite is the deeply tranquilizing Veeparita Korani Mudra (Legs Up the Wall Pose). It is very simple and a great stress-reliever.

Lay on your back with your buttocks at the wall and prop up your pelvis with a block.

Straighten your legs upright against the wall so that they are supported by the wall.

Inhale through your nose filling from belly to throat.

Imagine your breath is like a cascading waterfall as it fills from your belly to your heart, and finally pauses at the throat.

Slowly exhale then repeat (5-10 minutes).

Resume your yoga practice the next morning, whether it’s with a yoga DVD you’ve brought along, a live class you found in your destination city, or an online yoga class or how-to video. You’ll feel much more regulated, balanced and ready for your day.

Watch our stress relief videos instantly.

Read how to breath away stress.

Read about overcoming general anxiety.

Jill Miller

Jill Miller, C-IAYT, ERYT is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the self-care fitness formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® Method. With more than 30 years of study in anatomy and movement, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, athletics and pain management. She is known as the Teacher’s Teacher and has trained thousands of movement educators, clinicians, and manual therapists to incorporate her paradigm shifting self-care fitness programming into athletic and medical facility programs internationally. She has crafted original programs for 24 Hour Fitness, Equinox, YogaWorks, and numerous professional sports teams. She and her team of 500+ trainers help you to live better in your body with an emphasis on proprioception, mobility, breath mechanics and recovery. She has presented case studies at the Fascia Research Congress and International Association of Yoga Therapy conferences. She has the rare ability to translate complex physiological and biomechanical information into accessible, relevant moves that help her students transform pain, dysfunction and injury into robust fitness. Jill is the anatomy columnist for Yoga Journal Magazine and has been featured in Shape, Men’s Journal, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, Yoga Journal, Self, and on the Today Show and Good Morning America. Jill is regularly featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network. She is the creator of dozens of DVD’s including Treat While You Train with Kelly Starrett DPT and is the author of the internationally bestselling book The Roll Model: A Step by Step Guide to Erase Pain, Improve Mobility and Live Better in your Body. Based in Los Angeles, CA, she is a wife and mother of two small children and is currently writing her second book.

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Stephanie

i NEED these travel tips!! committing to ALL FIVE of these for my flight home for thanksgiving this year, i can’t wait to travel HAPPIER and healthier (and with my yoga tune up balls)!

Gretchen Corbin

Great tips for relieving stress during/after airplane travel. I especially like the advice to arrive early to keep stress levels down and provide time for some pre-flight stretching. I like to walk the terminal as much as possible before I have to cram into a seat. During my last flight (to Albany/Kripalu for YTU Level 1 training) I played around with stretches that I could do in my seat. I managed to do lots of forearm, wrist, hand, neck, ankle, feet, and shoulder exercises. Twists are also easy to do in a seat. On this most recent flight, I was… Read more »

Miriam Rigney

I love the image of the cascading waterfall in the relaxation sequence you describe toward the end of the post Jill. I also love the Vipariti Karani pose to rebalance a busy nervous system!

Elise Fabricant

I’m so glad I saw this one! It was actually last week when I flew out to California for Yoga Tune Up training that I first encountered mild anxiety on a plane. I will try some of these techniques (specifically the ball work!) when I head home this week. It might be cool to produce a very soothing podcast recording that walks someone through centering techniques for the whole process of flying – waiting at the gate, boarding, take off, in flight, landing, waiting for luggage, etc.

Michelle Rakoczy

Perfect timing! I am flying to Florida this week and I have been nervous about it. But I really think the pre-flight yoga will help. The yoga tune up balls are definitely coming with me too! I am really glad you shared this article because flying and traveling can be stressful but this reminds me that it is ok to be peaceful in those moments. I really liked that line about how all we can control in the moment is our breath and that is okay if we get stressed out, to forgive ourselves. I really liked that and I… Read more »

Tanell

I have a question, how does inversions or getting your legs up technically create down regulation?

Jen F.

Thank you for this post Jill! I’m always super stressed before flying. I’m bookmarking this article and definitely bringing the YTU balls the next time I travel.

Marah

I love this article! I am travelling often and many times long distance and ever since I started to practice yoga on a daily basis I have really come to crave it during my trips. The named poses are all great. Also, I have looked into “chair yoga” in order to modify my poses and bring them onto a chair instead of a mat. Spinal twists, backbends, everything is possible!

Jenn

I love this post Jill – thanks. It is helpful to have new ideas for staying healthy on the road.
A few things that I also in’core’porate include – seated tubular core every hour, standing parhigasana shoulder flossing. Recently, I flew from Ottawa to Vancouver and was flossing at the back of the plane when another YTU student saw me and joined in. Hilarious!
I also bring toe spreaders and extra socks. With a little effort I arrive feeling much better in my body.

Fariba

I travel overseas to visit my family almost once a year. Its a very long, exhusting, and stressful travel, but now I feel more ready to schedule my next flight, I want to practice all the suggestions in this article, especially packing my therapy balls. Thanks Jill!

Dana

Looking forward to taking my YTU balls on my next trip (won’t the passengers around me be jealous???) I know the web site to send them to

Bernadette

I’m studying Yoga Tune Up as part of the 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course at Yoga Garden in San Francisco. I travel fairly often for my job in tech. so this post is especially helpful for myself and my colleagues. It also brings to mind the new Yoga Room at San Francisco Airport: http://www.flysfo.com/web/page/about/news/pressrel/2012/sf1205.html.

Erin

This is a great article – I travel for business often and always hope for an open seat next to me so I can do asana while in flight. Forward folds and chest openers always get looks from the other passengers!

Karina

Thank you for the great tips. I am not fond of flying but I have to do it quite often. Some years ago I experienced an unpleasant incident on the plane and since then I am very anxious whenever I fly. I try to concentrate myself on breathing and it works quite well but sometimes I feel I need some physical movements as well. Maybe my mind needs to be more focused on inner “sound” of my physical body than all sounds that come from outside during the flying. I will try definitely your advices next time I take a… Read more »

Marisa

What a great idea! I always feel so stressed during and after a long flight, especially if I’m supposed to sleep on it. I will definitely bring the YTU balls the next time I go travel.

judalon

I love all the travel tips since I travel 50% of the month. Thanks for the relief!

g-mo

the tune up balls are a great tip for flights. i travel a lot and on a way back from the east coast, ended up what i affectionately called a “uni-kankle” from sitting with my ankle tucked underneath me (doah! i knew better!). i can’t wait to try the tune up ball techniques you’ve mentioned.

Peggy Sue Honeyman-Scott

Airplane seats are not designed for sitting for long periods of time and I have to get up several times during a flight to stretch. Next time I will be armed with my YTU balls. In fact they should be sold at airports with a how to guide. I can see it now, everyone sitting in their seats rolling there back muscles!

Kimberly

Thank you for the great tips on travel. I spent quite a bit of time in airports this summer and my YTU balls went with me everywhere. They are much easier to carry than a foam roller and much more effective 🙂 My shoulders are always in my ears after moving through congested long hallways & carrying heavy bags. Having the balls available has given me such relief by releasing my trapezius and working all the way down my spine. I find legs up the wall helpm e sleep in unfamiliar places and is my favorite way to spend time… Read more »

Roselea

My yoga mat has been on several trips to Australia and dragged out of my suitcase a few times but on my last two trips to Australia I only took my very small YTU Therapy balls and used those delightful purple guys everyday. The self massage saved me the cost of a deep tissue massage in Sydney and a trip to the chiropractor back in Los Angeles. I’ve fantasized about using them on the plane but thought it might be overkill…next time the are in my carry on. I love my YTU balls!

Allyson

These are fantastic. Since I discovered the YTU Therapy Balls, they’ve been on every flight with me but I haven’t used them in my (super expensive) flight seat yet! Great idea! I’m definitely a fan of shoulder stretching as I wait in the inevitable on-flight bathroom line too, and a good Viparita Karani when I arrive at my destination. Draining the legs after such a long-distance sitting, plus the restorative nature, is a giant relief. I like the idea of lunge poses in the aisle too, and some before boarding, to allow the legs to fully extend at the hip… Read more »

Eve S

A number of years ago I flew Korean Air to Seoul and then to Mongolia-I was amazed that there was an in flight video towards the end of the flight that showed some exercises. Many of the passengers were doing them-I did not because I let pride get in the way but I was struck by the fact that I have never seen anything like this on a domestic airline. (with the exception of some suggestions on a set pocket card on JetBlue) I will definitely be bringing my YTU balls with me on my next flight not only for… Read more »

Haley

Using my Yoga tune up balls sounds like an amazing idea to bring on the plane ride I go on, I’ve just started using them and I love them. Also after the landing putting my legs up sounds relaxing.

Eva

I just got my Yoga Tune Up balls today and will definitely bring it on my next airplane travel…a great way to relax and incorporate some movement into my body.

Terry Ford

I only started flying in 2008 to attend a convention in Florida. It was all I could do to get through the flight since not flying since I was 9 years old. Felt claustrophobic for sure, painful ears and that was a 2 hour flight. Since then I’ve flown a couple of times – the most recent being to my son’s wedding in Mexico. Longer flight – cramped terribly even with extra leg room seats – taking the balls is a fabulous idea. Some movements could create some funny looks – that would make the flight more exciting : )

Yumee

Love the idea of using the YTU balls while flying–that way the journey can be liberating for the back rather than binding. The question is can I use the balls en route without calling attention to myself by making faces when it hurts so good?

Laura

I never thought to bring the YTU balls on a flight. I always arrive feeling cramped and achy, and never actively doing anything about preventing the knots. I am going away this weekend and plan to bring them with me and try them out!

Nancy Kranzberg

I’m a frequent traveler and although I don’t do much walking around on the plane, I do go to the galley and do some quad stretches and hamstring stretches. Bringing my Yoga Tune Up balls with me is a great idea. I always have a book with me on planes—not to waste that valuable reading time! Now I can use the balls AND read at the same time. Multi tasking!

Victoria

What a concept, use down time in the airport to unwind. Using the tune up balls makes perfect sense to make traveling less stressful. The more I schedule work travel the more concerned i get with the idea that I’m going to miss my yoga time. Currently there is nothing better for me than being in a live yoga class, but i may just shock myself in my hotel room with my new yoga tune up balls and my iPad.

Farah

I think these are great ideas. I frequently get knots and tightness in my shoulders and general feelings of fatigue from traveling. These are good ideas to prevent muscle stiffness and encourage circulation. I really like the idea of using the Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls the whole flight so that you arrive massaged. It’s a way to use the “downtime” of the fight into productive body work and relaxation time. These ideas would also help you to transcend the stress and chaos of crowded airports and planes.

Kristen L

I have a trip coming up in two weeks and I will definitely be carrying my Yoga Tune Up balls with me. Standing Bridge Pose is another good pose that I can practice in flight or in the airport.

rcm

I’ll be using these tips when I fly tomorrow.

Anita

Great suggestions! I’ll have to try them the next time I fly as space is becoming more and more of a premium on flights these days!

Loong

These are great tips. I’m normally a just-in-time traveler, so I may not have time to do the pre-flight routine. I do try to do some breathing exercises while in my seat before takeoff, which helps to calm the mind after rushing to get to the airport. I’ll have to try the Legs Up The Wall Pose (especially with a block to get the pelvis above the heart) after I land.

Pam_SF

These are great. I’m flying across the country to Florida this Sunday and I’m definitely going to use these tips. Thank you!

subir

i’m about to head cross-country so this is perfect. quad stretches are also pretty compact and working the rectus femoris (easy to do even in the bathroom) can counteract all that hip flexion during hours of sitting.

Amber

I packed my Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls on my last trip to Europe. Although I forgot to use them in flight I took them out once I was checked in the hotel and it was just what I needed for my sore back from the uncomfortable seats and my shoulders, arms and hands from carrying and dragging all my luggage.

Christine

Isometric contractions like trying to adduct and abduct of flex and extened opposing muscle group ( like tune up tadasana for legs) even while seated is incredibly helpful.

Taina

I had a 24 hour flight from the states to South Africa. Breathing exercises, many eagle arms, and runners lunge in the galley helped. The first thing I put in my carry on bag was my Yoga Tune Up balls. I would not have made the flight without it. I’ve owned many pairs since their inception, but they somehow keep ending up with friends and family who also fly often. I’ll be waiting for Yoga Tune Up for Flights soon!

Gillea

I completely agree with Anne. With arthritis in my lower back (and years of back issues), I get extremely anxious before extended periods of travel when I know that I will be sitting with completely unnatural support. I think this anxiety only adds to the pain. I’m actually looking forward to my next few trips now that I feel empowered with this knowledge and understanding of how to counter the discomfort… and the balls will be a great help!

Anne

As a frequent business traveler, I am so grateful for such helpful tips! Remembering to paclk the Yoga Tune Up (R) balls – as well as some patience – is essential. Again, by bringing consciousness and breath to an anxiety-filled situation, we are able to switch from the sympathetic (fight or flight) mode to a deregulated calm state of mind, all through exhaling twice as long as the inhales. Incredible to know we are in charge, event when things appear somewhat out of our control.

Juliana Salas

this is what im going to do before road trips to boston for Pure ytt at Equinox

Karen K

I never knew travel can present the risk of more serious health threats including deep vein thrombosis, the formation of blood clots in the legs due to lack of circulation and dehydration. Thanks for the tips!

Shilpa

I definitely get back pain when I travel. I will have to try some of these stretches the next time I fly!

Kelli

I’m short enough to do a forward bending in my seat. The flexion in my spine is a nice release for the lumbar pain associated with sitting on a plane for long periods.

Leigh Bailey

Great article!

Olive Lazurek

I enjoy doing my fitness training program in the morning . It gives me energy throughout the day. If my workouts were highly intense, I feel great all day long. Supplements are not really necessary with the proper hiit workout , really good nutrition program and the proper rest.

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