Airplane (or airport!) Yoga

Airplane Yoga

This is an excerpt from Dr. Cousens’ book, Rainbow Green Live-Food Cuisine:

In the process of working out the best overall exercise system for airplane travel I have sought the guidance and direct input of Kali Ray, a Master Yogini, who is the founder of Kali Ray TriYoga®. (See Resources Directory.) It is said that yogis of old became so accomplished in their spiritual practices that they developed special powers, including the ability to fly. However, in the West, since the technology already exists for people to fly at high speeds and with a lot less personal self-mastery than the yogis of India exerted, Westerners can at least learn airplane Yoga to help them preserve health while flying.

Most people think that Hatha Yoga is merely some sort of physical fitness exercise and stretch system, but it can be much more than that. Properly done, Yoga energizes and balances the total mind/body/spirit, including the seven subtle energy centers and the twelve meridians as described in the acupuncture system. According to acupuncture theory, the meridians are directly linked in two-hour cycles to our 24-hour day and night cycle. Yoga properly practiced and lived has the potential to take one beyond the limitations of the mind to the non-causal joy, love, and peace of the Self.

Kali Ray TriYoga® is a complete flowing Yoga system that energizes the body by linking breath to body movement and thus oxygenating the system. In addition, Yoga helps to calm the mind and increases body strength and flexibility. These qualities are important for nullifying the effects of in-flight stress and to avoid stiffness from several sitting hours on the airplane. The Kali Ray TriYoga® system is excellent for neutralizing and avoiding cellular stress while flying and also speeds up the synchronization of the body. The airplane Yoga sequence can be done several times while flying on long trips. It is also beneficial to do Yoga and walking before and after the flight. After the flight, one ideal way to ground oneself is to find some grass and connect with the earth by practicing Yoga there. For most people, just creating the space to take a gentle walk after arriving at their point of destination is sufficient.

Following is a sitting sequence of “airplane Yoga” with optional standing positions. These posture flows include seven groups of postures that Kali Ray TriYoga® uses to achieve full range of breath and body movement. They are: standing, lateral twist, forward bending, backward bending, balancing, inversion, and sitting.

It is best to not force the body into any postures beyond a point of comfort. The posture flows are meant to energize and gently activate the meridian and bone and muscle systems. These postures are obviously modified for airplane seating conditions. As each airplane is designed a little differently, a certain amount of creative common sense is required to modify the postures according to the particular space available. Who knows, perhaps some day in a more health-conscious future, flight attendants will lead passengers in in-flight Yoga synchronized with accompanying video demonstrations and timed to the new time zone activity cycles.

Seat Salutation: 10  Movements and Breath Practices

Seat Salutation is designed for an airplane seat. Since each plane is different in size, there may be one or two postures that will need to be modified according to the space around you.  Have a relaxed, seated posture. Remove your shoes and make your clothing comfortable. With the spine in natural alignment, allow the shoulders to roll back and down. Bring awareness to the breath. Aim to maintain rhythmical breathing throughout the Seat Salutation.

Natural Breath

Technique • To begin Natural Breath, first inhale, allowing the breath to flow
into the lower lungs. The abdominal area expands, which allows the diaphragm
to lower, giving more room for the lungs. Then exhale, allowing the abdominal
area to pull in to release the air. When the abdominal area pulls in, the
diaphragm naturally lifts up against the lower lungs, which allows the air to
Benefit • One benefit of Natural Breath is that it creates and maintains the natural
way to breathe. In addition, it massages the internal organs, reduces stress
and tension, and helps maintain a relaxed body and mind.

Complete Breath

Technique • To begin Complete Breath, first exhale, releasing the air. Then
inhale, filling the lungs to maximum capacity. Next, exhale, slowly releasing
the air. The exhalation is complete when the abdominal area pulls in and the
air is released. Continue with Complete Breath.
One option is to use Victory Breath (see below) with Complete Breath.
The flow of air is the same throughout inhalation and exhalation, not speeded
up or slowed down. It is even from beginning to end. With Complete Breath,
use Victory Breath along with Balancing Breath, the breath ratio of 1:1, and
gradually increase it to a 1:2 ratio.

Victory Breath

Technique • With Victory Breath, use Complete Breath. To begin, slightly
close the glottis. Next, inhale and exhale with the gentle sound of the breath
as it passes over the back of the throat. It is the friction of air around the
glottis that produces the sound. This friction helps warm the air before it
enters the lungs. The sound of the breath should be even and steady. By listening
to the breath, one can easily hear if it is flowing or not flowing and
make any necessary adjustments to maintain a rhythmic breath. Using Victory
Breath deepens concentration by the act of listening to the sound of the

Balancing Breath

Technique • For Balancing Breath, begin by observing the flow of your breath.
After a few rounds, count the length of your complete inhalation. Then use
this number for your inhalation with the directions for the variations. The
two variations that follow, however, will use the length of six seconds.
When Complete Breath becomes smooth, create the breathing ratio of 1:1
for kriya (movement) or 1:2 for asana (stillness). During the movement, make
the inhalation and exhalation the same length. For example, if you inhale for
six seconds, then exhale for six seconds. When sustaining a posture, eventually
the exhalation becomes twice the length of the inhalation. If inhaling for
six seconds, first aim toward exhaling for nine seconds, gradually developing
the twelve-second exhalation. The breath should flow.
Benefits • Breathing practices are beneficial for both body and mind. They regulate
the breath rhythm, providing steady oxygenation. Increasing the flow
of air expands the chest and frees the breath. The exhalation eliminates toxins
from the lungs while relaxing the body. The rhythmic breath strengthens the
heart and lungs, and creates good communication between them. In addition,
yoga breathing practices deepen concentration, calm the mind, and balance
the subtle energies of the body and mind.

Part 1: Neck Movements
Keeping the spine lengthened and the body relaxed, rotate the shoulders in
a forward circular movement several times. Next, rotate the shoulders in a
backward circular movement. Remain with the shoulders relaxed back and
Vertical • On the next inhalation, lift the chin upward. Exhale and bend the
head forward, bringing the chin to the dimple of the neck. Continue the
movement; then sustain each position. While the chin is lifted up, an option
is to place the bottom lip over the top lip to further stretch the front of neck.
Take 3–5 breaths. Relax the lip. Exhale and bring the chin toward the dimple
of the neck. With interlaced fingers behind the head, gently press the head
down. Hold for 3–5 breaths; then release the hands. To include half circles,
keep the head forward. Inhale as the head swings to the right. Exhale as the
head swings to the left. Repeat several times. Then return the neck to natural
Horizontal • With the head and the back straight, inhale, turning the head
to the right. Exhale to the left. Repeat a minimum of 3–5 times; then sustain
each side for 3–5 breaths.
Side-to-Side • Exhale and bring the right ear toward the right shoulder. To
deepen the stretch, externally rotate the left shoulder down away from the left
ear. Inhale and return the head to the center. Exhale, turning the left ear
toward the left shoulder. Alternate sides; then sustain each side 3–5 breaths.
Return the neck to natural alignment.
Clockwise/Counterclockwise • Exhale and bring the chin toward the dimple of
the neck. Rotate the head in a forward circular movement as if the nose were
drawing a circle (do not take the head back). Repeat several times in each
direction. Maintain continuous movement or hold one area longer if needed
to release tension. When you complete, the head returns to the center with
the chin toward the neck. Inhale and lift the head.

Part 2: Eye Movements
Eye movements soothe the eyes while toning and strengthening the eye muscles.
During a flight the eyes may feel dry. Eye movements help restore lubrication.
There are several variations. Rest between rounds if needed. The head
should not move during the eye exercises. Maintain relaxation in the facial
muscles, neck, and shoulders. Eye movements are performed slowly.
Vertical • Have a relaxed gaze with eyes facing forward. Inhale as the eyes gaze
up. Exhale as the eyes move down and in as far as possible. Repeat several
times; then hold each position. Return the eyes to center.
Horizontal • Inhale as the eyes move in a horizontal position to the right. On
the exhalation, the eyes flow to the left. Repeat several times; then hold each
side. Return the eyes to center.
Diagonal • Inhale as the eyes move to the upper right corner. Exhale as the eyes
move diagonally down across the bridge of the nose to the lower left corner.
Move from the upper right to the lower left. Complete 3–5 rounds. Repeat
diagonal movements on the other side with the eyes flowing between the upper
left corner and the lower right corner.
Clockwise/Counterclockwise • Lift the eyes up as if to see a number twelve on a
clock. Make smooth clockwise circular movements. After several rounds, continue
with counterclockwise movements.
Inner Eye Gaze • Close the eyes and focus on the space between the eyebrows,
the seat of the mind. This eye gesture rests the eyes while calming the mind.
During Seat Salutation the eyes may be open or closed.

Part 3: Over-Arm Stretch
Inhale, interlace the fingers, and extend straight arms overhead, relaxing the
shoulders down away from the ears with the palms facing up. Exhale, bending
the elbows, and place interlaced fingers behind the head, keeping the elbows
pulled back. Inhale and stretch the hands and arms overhead again. Repeat
several times; then sustain each position for a few breaths. When completed,
exhale, bringing palms together in front of the chest and the hands to the lap.

Part 4: Arrow Pose
The shoulders remain rolled back and down. Exhale while bringing the left
arm behind the back, reaching the left fingers up toward the neck. Inhale and
extend the right arm overhead. Exhaling, bend the right elbow so the right
and left hands come together. If you are unable to reach, use a tie between
the hands or instead of having the right arm overhead, bring the right hand
behind the back to support the left elbow. Another option is to bring the left
side as high as you can; then sit back in your seat to support the arm position.
Enjoy for 5 breaths. Exhale to release. Repeat on the other side. When completed,
roll the shoulders back and down several times.

Part 5: Palm Tree
Place the right forearm on the armrest. Inhale, lifting the left arm overhead.
Exhale, lengthening the torso to the right while stretching the left side of the
torso toward the right. Remain in this lateral flexion-spinal stretch for a few
breaths. Inhale, lengthen the spine, and lift the arm overhead. Exhale, releasing
the arm. Repeat on the other side.

Part 6: Spinal Rolls
Some aircraft do not have room for this full spinal roll. If not, then modify
accordingly by partially rolling forward or rolling to the side of the knees.
Inhale, lengthening the spine. With your hands, hold onto the front of the
chair. Exhaling, hinge from the hips, lengthening the spine out and over the
thighs. The head is the last to come forward. After the torso completely relaxes
onto the thighs, inhale. Then beginning at the base of the spine, roll up vertebra
by vertebra. The head is the last to lift. The chest is open and the chin
gently lifts. Both wave movements begin at the base of spine. While exhaling,
keep the chest open until the torso completely relaxes onto the thighs. Then
maintain a spinal flexion as you roll up. Repeat this wave-like movement
through the spine several times. After the last exhalation, inhale and roll the
spine into natural alignment.

Part 7: Spinal Twist
Cross the right leg over the left leg. Inhaling, lengthen the spine as you prep
for Spinal Twist. Place the right hand against the armrest on right side of the
seat. Place the left forearm or hand against the outer right knee for leverage.
Exhale, and beginning at the base of the spine rotate vertebra by vertebra,
twisting the torso to your right. Use arm strength to take you deeper into the
stretch. Hold for 5–10 breaths. Exhale and unwind, beginning at the base of
the spine. After the spine unwinds, release the right foot to the ground. Repeat
on the other side.

Part 8: Ankle-Calf Leg Stretch
Inhale, stretching the right foot and leg out (under the front seat) as far as
you can. Exhale, flexing the foot. Inhale and point the toes. Repeat a few
times. Then circle the foot both clockwise and counterclockwise several times.
Repeat with the left side.

Part 9: Squat
Inhale, bringing the right knee toward the chest by lifting the foot onto the
seat. Exhale, placing the right foot to the ground. Inhale and lift the left foot
up. Exhale and put the left foot down. Repeat several times; then sustain each
side. Place interlaced fingers around the knee to bring it closer to the chest.
Sustain the knee close to the chest for 3–5 breaths. Exhale, lowering the foot
to the ground. An option is to bring both knees to the chest for a few breaths.

Part 10: Hip Opening /Ankle Rotations / Foot Massage
Inhale while placing the left foot across the thigh, directly above the right
knee. To ensure that the ankle and knee are in line with one another, gently
press the left hand on the left knee to aid in opening the left hip. If you are not
wearing socks, place the right fingers between the toes for a toe stretch. With
the right hand assisting the left foot in ankle rotations, make several clock-
wise and counterclockwise circles. When completed, enjoy a foot massage.
There are vital points throughout the feet that help to energize the body when
stimulated. Press each point on your foot with gentle, deep pressure. Do this
for several minutes. Repeat on the other foot. Exhale, resting both feet on
the floor.

This completes Seat Salutation. You may either add the wall postures after Seat Salutation or continue with Sun Moon Breath and Deep Relaxation.

Sun Moon Breath

Technique • Use Complete Breath with Sun Moon. Exhale, and then begin with Variation 1 (1:1) of Balancing Breath, eventually progressing to Variation 2 (1:2). Use visnu mudra (sustaining gesture) or nasagra mudra (nose gesture). For visnu mudra, lightly close the hand, extending the fourth and fifth fingers and thumb. With the right hand, the thumb closes the right nostril and the fourth finger closes the left nostril. For nasagra mudra, place the tips of the second and third fingers at the eyebrow center. When using the right hand, the thumb closes the right nostril and the fourth finger closes the left nostril. You may alternate hands so the arm doesn’t tire, or support the elbow on the armrest so the upper body remains comfortable. To control the airflow, the thumb and finger may be placed over the concave area. It is located on the side of the nostril next to the area that expands out. Inhale through the left nostril and then exhale through the right nostril. Next, inhale through the right nostril, and exhale through the left nostril. This completes one round. Begin with 5 to 10 minutes. Sun Moon completes with exhalation through the left nostril.

Benefits • The benefits of Sun Moon Breath are many. Sun Moon Breath increases lung capacity as well as purifies the blood through greater intake of oxygen. It relieves sinus congestion, headaches, nausea, and other imbalances.
Sun Moon Breath also strengthens the nervous system and steadies the mind. It purifies nadis, the subtle nerve channels that carry the flow of prana (vital energy). In addition, this breath technique balances the male (rational) and the female (intuitive) energies, bringing good physical and mental health to the body and mind.

Deep Relaxation • The breath returns to Natural Breath. Close the eyes, gently focusing between the eyebrows. Remain the silent witness. Observe the flow of breath as the body relaxes. Maintain a calm mind and feel deep relaxation throughout the body. After meditation, allow the body to remain relaxed and the mind calm.

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