The Perfect Pre-Flight Yoga Routine

Leah Sugerman
The Perfect Pre-Flight Yoga Routine

Flying is typically the start to a wonderful adventure. Jumping onto a plane and taking off to a foreign world is magical; however, the post-flight aches and pains created by flying are no way to begin a holiday.

Continuously shrinking plane seats wreak havoc on the neck, shoulder, back, hips and legs. And the lack of humidity in the cabin can lead to dehydration, which causes muscles to cramp and tense even further.

Luckily, yoga is the perfect antidote to cramped seating pains. Along with drinking plenty of water to remain hydrated, yoga is an excellent pre-flight practice to prepare your body for what lies ahead.

Next time you’re getting ready for a long-haul flight, try this simple and quick pre-flight yoga routine. Your body will thank you later.

Eagle Arms

Eagle Arms Pose

Another great in-your-seat remedy for shoulder and back pain is to take Eagle arms (or full Eagle pose, if you’re practicing before your flight).

Give yourself a big hug with one arm crossed over the other. Walk your hands as close toward each other as possible on your back. Relax your shoulders down away from your ears.

You can stay here or, keeping the cross of your arms, bring either the front of your hands or the back of your hands to touch in an Eagle bind. Extend your elbows up toward the ceiling and then press your forearms away from your face to really open up the space behind your shoulder blades.

Hold for a few long, deep breaths before switching the cross of your arms.

Down Dog

Credit: Kristin McGee Credit: Kristin McGee

An excellent, full-body posture to prepare you to fly is Downward Facing Dog. This all-encompassing pose will lengthen your full back body, including the neck, shoulders, upper, middle and lower back, hamstrings, and calves.

Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your shoulders aligned over your wrists and your hips aligned over your knees. Tuck all tens toes underneath and lift your hips up high toward the ceiling to create the shape of an upside-down V with your body.

Adjust the distance between your hands and feet as necessary. Spread your fingers wide and press down firmly into your hands. Soften your shoulders away from your ears and reach your sit bones toward the sky.

Press your thighbones back behind you and soften the weight of your heels toward the earth. Take any movements that feel natural and organic in your body.

You can pedal out your feet, bending into one knee at a time or lift one leg up toward the sky. Relax into this stretch throughout your whole body.

Asymmetrical Forward Fold


Let’s face it: sitting down for any extended period of time is a definite recipe for back pain, with the usual suspects being contracted and tense quadratus lumborum (huge muscles running down the lower back).

A simple and effective posture to relax and release these often-taut muscles is a Forward Fold, however an asymmetrical one. Here's how to do it:

  • Stand one foot onto a block or stack of books and forward fold over your legs. You’ll notice that the raised foot will also create a raised hip, which is exactly what you want.
  • Surrender into that space on your lower back that is stretching and, when you’re ready, place your prop underneath the other leg.

Bound Angle


The tiny seats of a plane create tension in the hips and groin when you stay seated for long periods of time. To alleviate this, stretch out this area before flying.

Bound angle pose is the perfect option to open and soften these muscles. Start seated on the floor and bring the soles of your feet to touch pointing your knees out to the sides of you. Draw your heels in as close toward your seat as feels comfortable, and lengthen your spine to the ceiling.

You can sit up onto a block or cushion and stay as you are or, if you would, like you can forward fold your torso over your legs to create a deeper opening.

Low Lunge

Credit: Kristin McGee Credit: Kristin McGee

Sitting in the same position for extended periods of time, creates a constant state of contraction in your hip flexors. This simple action can create a plethora of problems including low back and hip pain and tightness.

Plan ahead for this problem by practicing Anjaneyasana before a flight.

This low lunge position stretches deeply into the muscles of the hip flexors to keep them supple and ready for a flight. Start standing and take a huge step back with your right foot so that you take up at least 80% of your mat.

Relax your right knee down to the floor and rise up onto your fingertips or place your hands onto blocks. Lengthen your spine up toward the ceiling and relax the weight of your hips down toward the floor.

You can even bend deeper into your front knee to move further into the stretch. Relax into the opening and switch sides when you feel ready.