Airport Yoga: How to incorporate Yoga while traveling

By Melanie Kiss

yoga and travel

These past few years, I have spent many hours in airports. During my travels, it is important for me to find zen time. Here are some tips on how to incorporate airport yoga during your travels.  

February 2014, I was traveling from Denpasar to Seoul. I had completed my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training in Ubud, Bali and had left with a life changing experience, minus the Dengue. Having gone through a myriad of different types of meditations and breathing techniques, I had come to use them in everyday life. All though these methods were not foreign to me, thanks to mom and dad, I had only recently started to incorporate these methods into my travels.

I had a 10 hour layover in Seoul and there was only so much Kimchi one can eat during that time. So, having my yoga mat with me, I decided to find a quiet corner by the departure gate and unrolled my mat. I did a very slow flow, moving with the breath. I am not one to care a great deal about what people think or say, but this being my first yoga practice in an airport, I was a little nervous. That was the beauty of the practice. I turned inwards, pulling myself away from my surroundings and surrendered to the moment. 

After this first experience, my travel and yoga practices continued. From Vancouver Airport to Sydney, and Amsterdam to Honolulu Airport, I continued my airport yoga practice. Flights and layovers tend to be long and treacherous for many. Sitting in an uncomfortably tight seat or even sitting in first class but on the bum way too long. When one has connections, never be disappointed with a layover. It gives you time to walk around and even find a quiet space to do some stretches or yoga. You don’t necessarily need a yoga mat for standing or seated postures. 

During flight or even in preparation of it, people can get very stiff and sore. According to the American Heart Association, sitting still for long periods in cramped conditions, dehydration and low cabin pressure can all contribute to Deep Vein Thrombosis. So movement before and after a flight, and even during, is helpful.

Here are some yoga postures that are good for the traveling stiff body, but please always warm up before engaging in poses: 

  1. Tree pose
  2. Upward salute side bends
  3. Forward fold with minor back bend
  4. Warrior 2 and 3
  5. Spinal twists
  6. Bridge and camel

These are a few examples, but even doing a few Sun Salutations A and B are a wonderful way to wake up the body and get the blood flowing along with the breath. And you never know who might join you!

Meditation is another aspect that I find great when traveling. Due to the fact that I sit for hours on end in a small seat, I make use of this time and NOT just by reading and watching movies. 

I begin by taking deep breaths and focusing on the movement of my body during inhalation and exhalation. I focus on how the air feels as it enters and exits my lungs. Once I have been successful at quieting the mind by placing the attention on the breath, I then engage in just being. Allowing myself to be in the seat, in that moment. Letting go of any judgement I may have about the sensations I am feeling, the smells, the noise, etc. Just allowing my body and mind to rest in that moment. It really is a wonderful thing to practice as you are in the air amidst the clouds. You may even surprise yourself and fall asleep during the process.

Another form of meditation is active meditation. Looking and taking part in some form of activity while fully being present in the moment, without thought, is an example. Walking around the airport or on the flight, just observe what is around you. Observe your surroundings and observe yourself. How your feet touch the ground with every step and so forth. 

Meditation helps you reduce anxiety and worry that may be associated with flying. It can also help you relax and bring a sense of ease into the body. Meditation can be performed anywhere, but what better place than where you have lots of time to do nothing?

So I wish you well with your travels and hope that you too will incorporate airport yoga and meditation during your travels. There is nothing to lose, except perhaps your discomfort!