Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yoga for the Road (or a long-haul flight!)

Hello, remember me?

In case you have been wondering where I have been, the title of this post might give it away...  With my new job comes travel, including some of that most-dreaded type: the long-haul flight.

As I have gotten older (can you hear my bones creaking?) I have begun to like flying less and less.  Especially long haul.  The sheer exhaustion of going through airports, hauling luggage, the over-stimulation of the commercialised limbo that lies between the security check and the gate, and of course all of that only to find yourself packed like a sardine into a flying bus.

And is it just me, but have economy seats gotten smaller and closer together over the years? Meaning less leg room, arm room, and room in general!

Now there is really no way that sitting in a cramped chair with limited room to move for say 10, 11 or 14 (!!!!!!) hours is going to make your body happy.  Couple that with the time difference, dehydration and odd meal times/intervals, and no wonder you get to the other end feeling like you've survived a train wreck or just woken up from a coma.  And the back pain from my scoliosis doesn't help in the least.

Not to mention, of course, the psychological drama of spending 14 hours knowing that you're 33-thousand-feet up in THIN AIR.  I mean, why do they even TELL you that stuff?

As my physical and anxious discomfort over flying have grown over the years, so, it seems, has my need to travel.  In fact, in the first 6 months of 2011 I will fly long-haul at least 4 times, med-haul about 6, and do a few short hops as well, just for fun.  Bleurgh (which is not a word, but it should be).

So how does all this relate to yoga?  Well it doesn't I suppose, but I do.  As many other travellers have testified, I have found yoga to be super helpful in dealing with both the physical and mental discomforts of long journeys - whether by plane, train or automobile!  Here are a few things that I have found helpful:

  • Practice before you go: Doing yoga the day before or the day of a long trip makes a huge difference to how my body feels.  If I go into the trip well stretched, I seem to come out of it a lot better off.
  • Drink a lot: The air in airplanes is really dry and dehydrating.  Bring an empty water bottle through security and fill it up, or buy one once inside, and make sure you keep drinking regularly through the flight.  Avoid too much alcohol or coffee because these dehydrate you even more.  And if you, like me, process your water quickly and often - do the decent thing and get an aisle seat!
  • Pranayama: In case of anxiety, close your eyes and spend 5 minutes or so with your favourite pranayama.  Alternate nostril breathing is a good one.  Alternately, chant a mantra (even if just in your head).  I know, it sounds silly, but it's really very soothing.  A few om's go a long way at 33 thousand feet.  

Tune in next time for asanas for airplanes!  Happy Saturday everyone!


  1. The suckage factor of long haul flights can not be over-estimated!!

    I can't recount the number of times that I've come off a flight feeling like a jack-in-a-box that's been screwed up too tightly for all too long.

    Of course, it doesn't help that I'm nearly 6" tall!

    Anyway, yoga is the answer. That, and developing the skill of sleeping anywhere at the drop of a hat. Losing sensitivity to light, to noise etc means sleep is possible in airports, on flights and anywhere else in between. Sleep being the great healer of the body... it's a life-saver on long flights.

    Take care of you xo

  2. i did a whole piece on yoga and ayurveda for travel, including a sequence, for elephant journal:

  3. Ugh. I hate flying, too. I don't do any long hauls, but I do live in Montana. That means to get anywhere it is 3 or 4 connections. Which really wipes me out. Yay yoga!

  4. yoga before you leave, yoga at the airport, yoga in the wee space by the washrooms on the plane, yoga in your airplane chair, yoga when you get there. It's all good and makes that long -haul easier. Beside if you start doing yoga on the plane you meet other yogis. Yay!

  5. Hi there! I think you'd love to join United Yogis - it is an online community by yogis for yogis. A member is entitled to post photos, blogs and videos. You can also make friends with other yogis and discuss matters regarding yoga. Signing up is free anyway... :)