The Secret to Surviving Long Haul Flights

With all the headlines of mayhem on planes, puppies perishing in the overhead bin, folks being dragged off planes, kids kicking you seat,  I have one word that has changed how I approach a long flight...


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That's right...a word I learned in my yoga classes that serves as a respectful greeting.  Taking my yoga practice on the road has made all the difference between surviving a flight and ending up in the headlines!

Right off the bat, let's acknowledge that the airlines are doing things mostly wrong.  Cramming people in smaller and smaller spaces to maximize profits, neglecting to inform passengers about changes and failing to update passengers frequently. Add to that terrible policies, such over booking and charging fees for luggage, that create even more uncertainly and mayhem at boarding time. But in yoga I have learned something about living in a dysfunctional world.  I've learned that all we can change is how we react to the uncertainty and mayhem! And one way to do that is to greet everyone respectfully and to prepare my body for the journey ahead.

What follows is a list of ways practicing yoga has changed the way I approach flying the increasingly unfriendly skies...

High above the ground...find a peaceful place! 

High above the ground...find a peaceful place! 

1- The physical practice of yoga has made my body more flexible to fit and endure the average coach seat without arriving at my destination in considerable discomfort. Not only do I start out more flexible and with less aches and pains, but I end the flight feeling better and ready for my trip or business. 

2-The twists and stretches I've learned have allowed me to relax and stretch in my seat during the flight, especially when pinned in a window seat or when the seat belt light never seems to turn off!

3-The breathing practice, or meditation, which emphasizes eliminating distractions, has allowed me to relax during stressful times at the gate and on board.  I have now learned to sleep on board despite being a poor sleeper generally and a variety of annoying passenger behaviors, just by using my breathing practice to ignore them!

4-Yin yoga has taught me to the practice of living with what is, breathing through the discomfort until it passes, and accepting what you can't change. This has allowed me to be more empathetic, respectful and patient with the airline workers, (who also don't like these bad policies, but are stuck enforcing them) as well as fellow passengers whose bad behavior is almost always their own stress response!

When cancellations or changes in plans get frustrating...try yoga and meditation! 

When cancellations or changes in plans get frustrating...try yoga and meditation! 

So find yourself a yoga class for beginners, one that emphasizes breathing and mindfulness. I do Yoga with Cat with JRO Fitness in Sudbury. Your local recreation  center may offer them, or you can find a yoga center. 

Try a yoga app, such as Yoga Studio which is my favorite for the road.  However, I really recommend you work with a certified teacher first to make sure that you have the right alignment and know what's most important to practice safely.

Practice regularly, if you find yourself waiting for a client call or in waiting room, take those minutes to practice breathing. Once a day, pick a time to practice a few of the poses that make your body feel best. Make it a daily morning or evening activity, or set a timer on your phone. You don't always have to be in a class to practice!

Lastly, don't fear the "woo woo".  Lots of very practical people feel eastern philosophies are a bit "out there" or are afraid they won't be "good enough" or they will be brainwashed.  With the right instructor none of that is true!  ANYONE can begin to understand their own breath and body better, no matter your size, shape or health condition (though check in with your own Dr first before starting any exercise program) you should be able to make it better with the kind of breathe work and flexibility encouraged in yoga.  If anything feels wrong, don't do it! 

By K. Klofft (No compensation has been given for recommendations, these are all products or services I personally use.) Photos: J. Klofft