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Long Flight? Practice These 9 Yoga Poses in Your Plane Seat to Soothe Your Sore Body

No matter how excited we may be for upcoming travel, I think it’s safe to say that no one actually enjoys the long and tedious plane ride itself.

We’re cramped in a tight space. We’re dehydrated and inundated with germs. Let’s face it, no matter how glamorous the resort may be when you arrive, the act of getting there isn’t really glamorous at all.

Swollen feet, achy backs, tight hips, and sore necks are simply not anyone’s cup of tea. So, how can we combat the dreaded plane ride while still enjoying all the benefits of the trip?

Yoga, of course! And, more specifically, airplane yoga.

Yoga is a practice that can be done anywhere, anytime.

While that may sound like an oxymoron to you, there really are so many yoga poses you can practice right in your plane seat!

Yoga on a plane can actually be far more accessible than you might think. You just have to get a little bit creative in your packed-like-sardines economy seat to see that yoga is a practice that can be done anywhere, anytime.

And luckily for us, it can make a plane ride a whole lot more enjoyable.

Enjoy This Grounding Meditation While You’re In Flight


Practice These 9 Airplane Yoga Poses on Your Next Flight:

Depending on your level of flexibility, you can practice most or all of these yoga poses right in the . . . ahem . . . comfort of your plane seat!

Love the idea of airplane yoga? This Airline Just Launched In-Flight Yoga – Could This Be a New Travel Trend?

1. Half Easy Pose or Easy Pose

This simple pose offers more than meets the eye. After sitting for a long-time in a cramped space on a plane, this airplane yoga posture can help to loosen up tight hips and a cranky lower back right from your seat.

Depending on the length of your legs and how much space you have available in your seat, you may need to take the half variation of this pose. But you can still get all the same benefits.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Center yourself on your seat
  • Externally rotate your right leg and bend your knee so that it points toward your right
  • Slide your right ankle toward your left thigh into a half cross-legged position
  • Depending on how much space you have, either stay and hold as you are (and eventually switch sides) or do the same actions with your left leg to come into a full cross-legged position
  • Soften the muscles of your hips and elongate your spine
  • Hold for as long as it feels comfortable during your flight
  • If you’d like to, switch the cross of your legs halfway through



2. Neck Stretch

Now this is an airplane yoga pose that everyone can do from any seat! It’s simple but so effective for alleviating tension stemming from the neck all the way down through the shoulders.

If you’re feeling a headache coming on during your flight from the changes in cabin pressure or dehydration, this simple stretch may bring some much-needed relief.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Find a comfortable position in your seat. You can sit cross-legged or with your feet on the floor
  • Elongate your spine by rooting your sit bones into your chair and lifting the crown of your head toward the ceiling
  • Take a deep inhale and stretch your neck even longer
  • As you exhale, release your right ear toward your right shoulder
  • Allow the weight of your head to release down with gravity
  • Soften your shoulders away from your ears and soften the muscles of your jaw and your face
  • Surrender into this simple release for as long as you’d like before switching sides

Looking for more yoga tutorials and yoga tips? Check out our full library of Yoga articles here

3. Eagle Arms

This arm position offers such a juicy stretch to the upper back and shoulders. It’s the perfect airplane yoga pose to release built-up tension from sitting for a long trip.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Sit in a comfortable shape
  • Elongate your whole spine
  • Give yourself a hug and cross your right arm over your left
  • Either stay in this “hugging” shape or double wrap your arms around each other to bring either the backs of your hands or your palms to touch
  • If you take this double bind, inhale to reach your elbows toward the ceiling and exhale to press your forearms away from your face
  • Soften your shoulders away from your ears
  • Breathe into the space between your shoulder blades
  • Hold for about 30 second to a minute and then switch sides


4. Seated Spinal Twist

Who doesn’t get an achy back when they sit cramped for too long in a small plane seat? That is exactly why a gentle spinal twist can work wonders to relieve built-up tension throughout your spine.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Start in any comfortable seated position. Sit slightly away from the back of your seat so your spine is unsupported by the chair
  • Rest your right hand on your right armrest
  • Place your left hand on your right knee
  • Root your sit bones into your chair
  • Inhale and stretch the crown of your head toward the ceiling
  • Exhale and spiral to twist your torso toward your right
  • With every inhale, grow a little bit taller through your spine
  • With every exhale, spiral and rotate a little bit deeper through your torso
  • Allow your breath to gently guide you deeper into the twist
  • Hold for about 30 seconds to one minute, return back to center, and then switch sides


5. Seated Cat/Cow

Nothing really loosens up the spine and redistributes stagnant energy in your body like a good round of Cat/Cow. So it’s perfect to practice on a plane! You don’t need much room to undulate between these two poses so, luckily, your seat gives you just what you need.



How to practice on a plane:

  • Center yourself in your seat and rest your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart
  • Rest your hands on your knees
  • Stretch and lengthen your whole spine
  • As you inhale, expand your belly forward toward the seat in front of you, peel open your chest, and draw your shoulder blades toward each other
  • Ever so slightly, lift your gaze toward the ceiling
  • As you exhale, draw your navel toward your spine, round your back body, and draw your shoulder blades apart from one another
  • Gently release your chin toward your chest to gaze toward your bellybutton
  • Undulate back and forth between these two shapes for about a minute or two to get fresh energy flowing and to relieve a sore back


6. Seated Child’s Pose

This is another simple airplane yoga pose that can be practiced to gently curve the back body to alleviate any lower back crankiness.

Bonus: as you fold in on yourself, you can gather heat at your center to bring a little bit of warmth into a typically freezing cold plane ride!


How to practice on a plane:

  • Start seated with your feet on the floor and make sure you’re not wearing shoes!
  • Bend your knees deeply and place your feet onto your seat in front of your pelvis
  • Gently round your back body, wrap your arms around your legs, and hug your knees in toward your chest
  • Release your forehead toward your knees and surrender into this restorative, relaxing shape
  • Hold for as long as you’d like



7. Seated Figure-4 or Cow Face Pose

These awesome hip-openers are magical when you’re sitting on a long-haul flight. And as an added bonus, Cow Face arms also stretch and release tension that’s built up in your shoulders.

Cow Face legs require a bit more flexibility (and probably short legs as well!) so if this isn’t your favorite pose to practice outside of an airplane, you may want to skip it on the plane. You can substitute by practicing a Seated Figure-4 instead.

However, Cow Face arms are fairly accessible to all so you can practice the arm position no matter what shape your legs are in.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Start in a seated position with your feet on the floor roughly hip-distance apart
  • Cross your right leg over your left
  • Either open your right hip, bend your right knee toward your right, and cross your right ankle over your left knee in a figure-4 shape or bend your right knee deeply and draw your right heel toward your outer left hip toward a Cow Face shape
  • If you take the Seated Figure-4 position, stay as you are and skip ahead to add your arms
  • If you take Cow Face legs, keep your knees stacked on top of each other and either stay as you are or also bend your left knee deeply and draw your left heel toward your outer right hip
  • Elongate your spine
  • Stretch your right arm toward the ceiling, bend your elbow deeply and slide your hand down your back
  • Reach your left arm behind you and up your back
  • You can either hold onto your shirt or, if it’s available to you, you can interlace your fingers behind your back
  • Maintain length in your spine and gently press the weight of your head against your right arm
  • Gently press your ribcage against your left arm
  • Hold for about 30 seconds to one minute and then switch sides


8. Reverse Prayer or Reverse Elbow Clasp

Just in case your shoulders are craving a little bit more release, this pose has you covered!


How to practice on a plane:

  • Start seated with your feet on the floor roughly hip-distance apart
  • Root your sit bones into the seat and stretch the crown of your head up away from it
  • Sit slightly forward toward the edge of your seat so that you back is unsupported by your chair
  • Reach both of your arms back behind you
  • Either hold onto opposite elbows or bring your palms to meet behind your back in a Reverse Prayer position
  • Gently draw the tips of your shoulder blades toward each other and broaden your chest
  • Maintain length in your spine and subtly draw in and up on your core
  • Hold for about one minute


9. Seated Meditation

This is the perfect airplane yoga practice for anxious flyers! And, honestly, who doesn’t need a little bit of meditation practice when the airs get turbulent or when that seemingly adorable little kid sitting directly behind you won’t stop kicking the back of your seat while screaming and crying about his mother not letting him use the iPad . . .

Yes, meditation can be a very welcome practice during the close-quarters we experience while flying.


How to practice on a plane:

  • Find any comfortable position in your seat. You can take any of the shapes mentioned above or simply sit with your feet on the ground
  • Elongate your spine
  • Close your eyes
  • Start by keenly observing everything around you. Notice all the sounds, smells, sensations, etc.
  • Once you’ve paid attention to all the external stimuli enough, then draw your awareness inside
  • Feel the fluctuations of your breath and listen to its consistent rhythm
  • Slow the movements of your mind by maintaining all of your awareness on your breath
  • Stay focused in this quiet, still place for as long as you would like – maybe even for the duration of your whole flight!


Airplane Yoga Isn’t Such an Oxymoron After All!

The next time you’re bored to death on a flight or your back hurts so badly that you’re almost in tears, whip out these handy-dandy airplane yoga poses to soothe all your woes.

Practice a bit of stretching your body and your mind on your next flight for a more relaxing and enjoyable airplane experience . . . of course, followed by a more relaxing and enjoyable post-travel body.

Have a safe and yogic flight!

Feeling jet lagged after your long-haul? Relieve Jet Lag and Get Back to Normal With These 8 Yoga Poses

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Leah Sugerman

Leah Sugerman is a yoga teacher, writer, and passionate world traveler. An eternally grateful student, she has trained in countless traditions of the practice and teaches a fusion of the styles she has studied with a strong emphasis on breath, alignment, and anatomical integrity. Leah teaches workshops, retreats, and trainings both internationally and online.

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