The stress of flying can be awful (especially if you’re stuck next to someone who is seriously annoying), but the neck and body aches that come after a long journey take the cake when it comes to vacation spoilers. Looking forward to your next adventure while feeling bummed about being stuck in the dreaded middle seat? Don’t sweat it; New York-based yoga instructor and Iyengar specialist Carrie Owerko gave us seven great tips that’ll help you survive your flight without major stiffness or pain later. Treat yourself to a few cozy essentials and read on for her smart advice.
1. Move as much as possible. “Move before you fly,” Owerko tells us. “Move during your flight. Move after your flight.” She tells us that doing a few yoga postures that engage the glutes and elongate the hip flexors (like lunges or bridging) are especially good. “Go for a brisk walk after you land, if at all possible,” she advises.
2. Wear comfortable shoes. Sky-high heels or another pair of trendy kicks might look cool, but you should never sacrifice your bod for runway style. “Wear lightweight shoes that you can easily remove so you can spread and stretch your toes,” Owerko advises. “Stand when you can and rise up on the balls of your feet and slowly lower your heels. Then stretch your calf muscles by leaning against a wall with one leg extending behind you and your heel on the floor. Stretch your hamstrings and hips by putting your foot on a ledge or wall before you board.”
3. Swap out your cheap neck pillow. Instead of a crappy neck pillow that leaves you in a tired half-sleep, Owerko says to buy some stuff that’ll actually help relieve pains and maintain good posture. “Buy some lacrosse balls and roll on them before and after your flight. They are really great for the feet, back muscles, hips, and shoulders. Bring a yoga strap too; it’ll really help stretch your shoulders and hips!” Can’t nod off without a pillow when flying? Do yourself a major favor and invest in one that offers super solid support.
4. Focus on your breath. Airport chaos can make even the most seasoned traveler feel anxious or stressed. To keep your cool, try one of Owerko’s go-to breath exercises.
- Breathe in for a count of five and out for a count of five using even inhalations and exhalations. “Do this for a few minutes; it can be both calming and energizing,” she affirms.
- Try to double the length of your exhalation. “This time, breathe in for three and out for six. Do this for a few minutes and notice how you feel,” she suggests, telling us that this one is especially good if you’re feeling tense and irritable.
5. Do some simple stretches. When it comes to your arms, Owerko says stretching ‘em is as simple as big arm circles (like you’re swimming). To target your side, stand and lift your arms above your head before you bend to each side while taking deep breaths. “Circular movements of your ankles, hips, and shoulders really help increase circulation, and help lubricate the joints, while twists are really great for relieving tension in your back.” Owerko says you can twist side to side while standing, sitting, or even lying down.
6. Hydrate. Owerko tells us that staying hydrated is key for feeling good while flying. As a bonus, “it will also force you to get up and move!” Do your best to stay away from booze and too much caffeine; you’ll feel so much better. Bring an insulated water bottle to keep your water or tea at the right temp during a long flight.
7. Pack properly. An oversized suitcase with a broken roller or a carry-on full of stuff that strains your back when you carry it will only contribute to your post-flight pain and stiffness. If you can’t spring for a new bag, ask around to see if you can borrow one from a friend or neighbor. If you’re up for making the investment for a new bag or carry-on, choose a smart, lightweight style that helps you move with ease.
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(Photo via Getty)