Make Air Travel Time Work For You

In our modern world, we are tethered 24/7 to our cell phones and laptops, so we don’t leave our work behind when we leave the office. Even airplanes—which had been that last bastion of disconnectivity—now have inflight Wi-Fi, so those emails that would have once been left unanswered for a few blessed hours beg for our attention during an entire flight.

Some fliers believe it is essential to open our laptops the moment flight attendants let us so we don’t miss a moment of productivity even while in the air. But I would argue that it is more important to use the gifts of travel downtime otherwise.

First, embrace travel as a moment to think without interruption. I’ve spent countless hours on trains and planes keenly aware that I’m the only one not tapping away on my phone or computer. Instead, I close my eyes and give myself time to let my mind wander. I may still be thinking about work or upcoming events, but I try my best not to allow extraneous distractions to clutter my head. It is often in these quiet moments when inspiration strikes.

Secondly, flying time can be a great opportunity to engage in a brief yoga practice. A few flight-friendly yoga poses can do much to reverse the damaging effects of extended periods of sitting on a plane. In-flight yoga has been proven to release muscle tension, relax the mind, soothe the nervous system, decrease anxiety, and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis.

Here are eight in-flight yoga poses you can do in your seat:

1. Neck Stretches

With your head straight, inhale. Exhale and look to your right. Inhale and look ahead. Exhale and look to your left. Repeat.

2. Shoulder Lift

With your head straight, inhale and raise shoulders toward your ears. Exhale, lower shoulders, and let go. Repeat.

3. Neck Rolls

Start with your head straight. Gently tip your head to your left. Then roll your head back so your eyes face the ceiling. With your head back, roll your head to your right. Next, roll your head so your chin faces down. This stretches the muscles at the back of your neck and contracts those in front. Finish the movement by bringing your head back up to the start position. Repeat.

4. Seated Cat-Cow Pose

Sit on the edge of your seat, with a comfortable distance between your knees and with your ankles in line with your knees. Place your hands on your thighs, and, as you inhale, draw your chest forward and your shoulders back. As you exhale, round your spine and draw your shoulders forward. Look down toward your navel, relaxing your neck and head. Repeat five to six times.

5. Back Release Pose

While seated upright on your seat, cross your left ankle over your right knee, leaving your right foot on the floor. Keep your left foot extended (pull your toes up toward your body) to help protect the knee. Breathe deeply, taking your attention to your lower back. Fold over, bringing your torso forward to deepen the stretch. Hold in this pose, taking eight to ten deep breaths. Repeat with the right foot.

6. Seated Spinal Twist

Sit up tall, then grab the sides of your seat. Inhale and grow taller. Exhale and twist your torso to your right, gazing to the right as well, and hold for ten to twenty seconds. Return to center. Repeat on the other side.

7. Thigh Lifts

To strengthen and improve circulation in your legs while seated, lift one leg at a time, imagining that you are lifting the middle of your thigh up to the ceiling.

8. Seated Savasana (Corpse Pose)

Sava means corpse and asana means pose, and savasana implies a depth of release that goes beyond simple relaxation. Sitting comfortably in your seat, let go of all muscle tension. Let go of the noise and other distractions. When your thoughts come, let them go. Rest deeply.

Not only can these activities help to counteract the miseries of air travel, but they can also make sure that you arrive at your destination feeling your best!

To learn more about how to utilize yoga in your life to thrive, visit Julie at and check out her first book, Beyond the Mat: Achieve Focus, Presence, and Enlightened Leadership Through the Principles and Practice of Yoga.

5/14/2018 7:00:00 AM
Julie Rosenberg
Written by
Julie Rosenberg, MD is an experienced pharmaceutical executive who oversees global drug development programs for patients with cancer. In addition, Julie has devoted the last 16 years to the in-depth study and practice of yoga. She uses her advanced yoga teaching certification to take yoga beyond the mat, helping people ...
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