Travel Yoga (for the car, airplane, airport, etc.)


One of the (wonderful) parents at my school suggested that I do a post on yoga poses for the car/airplane since we 1) live in an incredibly traffic-ridden city; and 2) our kids do a TON of traveling each year to/from Jakarta.  I thought this was a fantastic idea, especially because I also fly quite a bit. I always ask for an aisle seat so I can get up to practice some (contained) yoga poses in the area next to the flight attendant station.

So here goes!  Perfect timing as we head into Spring Break. Below are some ideas for yoga to do while traveling with your kids (or by yourself :)), divided into "seated" and "standing" poses.  The latter is great if you can find a space on the airplane or have a layover between flights and can find a cozy corner in the airport.  Remember to focus on the inhale/exhale as you move through each pose.  Happy practicing!

Seated poses

  • Seated Ragdoll: Start with both feet on the ground (or propped as much as possible) and hands on knees.  Move your chin to your chest, and begin to roll down over your lap. Let your hands fall to the sides of your legs.  Go as low as you can and then stay there for 2-3 breaths before rolling back up.  Roll back up the opposite way that you rolled in, with your chin/head coming up last.  Roll your shoulders back once you're upright again.  Do this 2-3 times.  You should feel a stretch in your neck and upper/mid-back.
  • Seated cow/cat:  Sit upright with hands on knees. Draw your hands back on your thighs while you push your chest forward and shoulders go back. Inhale as you do this. Now exhale while your hands slide back to your knees and your shoulders round and your chin tucks to your chest.  Alternate between these two movements 2-3 times,  A great back/shoulder stretch.
  • Side stretch (Crescent Moon): Reach your arms up overhead while remaining seated.  Keep the arms up while your inhale and then as your exhale, curve your body to one side.  Inhale to come back to center (arms still raised), and then exhale to curve to the other side.  Do this 2-3 times for a great side body stretch.
  • Gomukhasana (cow-face) arms: Just the arms, not the legs! There are two ways to do this pose: modified or full.  Start by lifting the right arm over your head and then bringing your hand (face down) just below your neck.  Your elbow should be bent and right next to your head.  Place your left hand on your elbow and gently pull back for a shoulder stretch. If this feels alright, try the full pose.  Leave your right arm where it is, and bring the left arm behind you with your hand facing out resting on your lower back. Slowly bring the left hand up your back and try to reach for right hand.  You should feel a shoulder stretch and chest opener.  Try the other side.
  • Heron (ideal if your are in business class, a roomy car, or are a child): Don't be intimidated by the picture in the link! We are doing a modified version :) Sit with the left leg curled up like in a cross-legged position or foot flat on the ground  From there, pull your right knee into your chest.  Slowly take hold of the back of your right leg, the ankle or the foot, and try to stretch your leg straight and up (as much as you can).  Don't hunch your shoulders but rather try to move them back to open up your chest. A great stretch for the chest and back of the leg. Hold for a few breaths and then switch to the other side.
  •  Hindolasana (aka Rock the Baby): Sit with the left leg curled up like in a cross-legged position or foot flat on the ground.  Hold the right foot with the both hands, knee out to the side, and then gently pull into towards the chest (maybe throw in a few ankle rolls first). Maybe this is a good enough leg/hip stretch for you!  If you want to go further, place the right foot in the crook of the left elbow, right elbow around the knee, and then link hands.  Gently pull into your chest.  Hold for a few breaths. Try the other side.
  • Seated twist: Sit with legs on the floor, propped, or in cross-legged position. Move away from the back of your seat a bit if you can.  Place the right hand on the left knee, and the left hand behind you.  Twist your upper body to the left, without moving your hips.  Breath in and try to extend your spine to sit taller, and then twist a bit more on the exhale.  Stay here for 2-3 breaths and then switch sides.

Standing poses

  • Forward fold and variation: The standard Forward Fold has you first standing in Mountain pose with a straight back, shoulders back and legs about hip-width apart. Keeping your back straight, bend at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back legs (i.e. hamstrings).  Ideally your hands are on the floor even if you have to bend your knees.  Some variations on this include; 1) open your legs out into a wider stance and bring hands between your feet as you reach your head towards the floor; 2) in narrow or wide stance clasp hands behind your back and stretch up to get a shoulder opener; or 3) cross the right foot in front of the left and a little more forward; bend forward (your right leg may bend a bit at the knee); hold for a few breaths and then switch legs.
  • Pyramid pose: Start in Mountain pose (standing tall, shoulder back, arms by your side, and legs hip-width apart). Step the right foot back a couple of feet - both feet should be facing forward (although the back toes may turn out to the side a bit) with all four corners of each foot down on the ground.  Feet shouldn't be lined up one right behind the other but rather on "train tracks" with a bit of separation between the hips. Hips should face forward. Place hands on hips and slowly bend forward over the right leg with a straight back.  Stop when you feel the stretch on the back right leg.  If you reach your hands to the floor and nose to the shin without bending the front knee, great! Otherwise, keep your hands on your hips or folded at the heart.  Hold for a few breaths and then switch sides. Terrific for the hamstrings.
  • Tree pose: A favorite for everyone!  Most people know how to get into this, so I will just say one word of warning - don't place your foot on your opposite knee! This can cause damage to the knee.  Either below or above the knee, or at the ankle is best. For adults, try to press the pinky-toe edge of the foot that is raised into the opposite leg - this will provide a bigger hip opener. Raise arms up or keep them at your hips (or folded at your heart). Hold for a few breaths and switch sides.
  • Ankle rolls: Bring right knee into chest and gently pull into your chest with your hands.  Roll your ankle a few times one way and then the other.  Switch to your left leg.
  • Eagle pose: Find a spot on the floor to focus on and bend both legs. Cross the right leg/knee overtop the left. If you can hook the right foot around the left calf, go for it! Lift the left arm in front of you, elbow bent, fingers reaching up. Circle the right arm under the left arm, trying to bring your hands to meet. Sink the hips and lift the arms while you balance on your left leg.  Stay for 2-3 breaths, and then gently untwist and switch sides.
  • Squat to forward fold:  We all know this one. Legs apart, feet flat on the ground, and toes turned out.  Bend knees until you're in a squat and push elbows into inner knees as you bring your hands folded in front of your heart.  Hip opener!  Stay for 2-3 breaths and then place hands on ground in front of you and slowly roll up to a forward fold.
  • Forward fold with a twist: Stay in your forward fold with feet either narrow or wide.  Place hands on the ground in front of you, even if knees need to be bent a bit. Place left hand in the center of the space in front of you, and lift right arm up to the right for a twist and stretch.  Stay for 2-3 breaths and then switch hands, and raise the left arm up to the left for a twist and stretch. 
  • Finish with in forward fold and a slow roll back up to standing.