Tag Archives: Asanas

4 Airplane Yoga Poses for Long Haul Travelers this Holiday

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends but for many people that means taking long-haul flights back to hometowns or holiday destinations.   While there’s much to look forward to by making such a journey, sitting still for a long time on a plane can be less than fun, especially for your joints and muscles.  Practicing certain yoga poses during the flight can keep your blood flowing and so prevent chances of swelling,  stiffness and in,  rare cases,  developments of blood clots in a deep vein known as deep vein thrombosis.

Calming the mind – especially if you boarded your flight after a largely hectic pre-Christmas workload – and reducing overall anxiety about flying, are two further benefits.

So,  while I’m not suggesting you start with sun salutations in the aisle once the seat-belt sign has blinked off, here are 4 flight-friendly yoga poses that you can practice either while seated or when stretching your legs in the cabin and without drawing too much attention to yourself.

1. Seated Cat Cow

Aim: This is a wonderful exercise if you suffer from a fear of flying as it frees the tension or stressed emotions that you may be holding onto by releasing blockages within your spinal column.

How: On the edge of your seat, align your feet with your hips.  Place your hands lightly on top of your thighs, inhale, and roll your shoulders to arch your chest upwards and outwards.   Look towards the tip of your nose and, as you exhale, roll your spine forward.  Allow your body to follow the flow and length of every breath. Continue for 10-20 breaths.

2. Seated Spinal Twist

Aim: Relieves stress and relaxes your back.  Especially great if you’ve fallen into a crumpled sleep over your arm rest or have just finished watching two back-to-back in-flight films without standing up at any stage.

How: Sit on the edge of your seat.  Gently place the back of your right knee on top of the left, place your left hand on your right knee, and your right hand on your right armrest.  Inhale and straighten your spine (feel like the top of your head is reaching to the hand luggage storage).  Keep this length and slowly exhale while turning towards your right side.  Stay here and take 4 deep breathes before repeating on the other side.

3. Thigh Stretch

Aim: Wakens your legs and prevents stiffness in your thigh muscles.

How: If you have an aisle seat, stand next to it and place your left hand on the headrest.  Straighten your back and tuck in your navel. Lift your right foot off the floor and bend your knee (so your lower leg is behind your body). Grab your right ankle with your right hand and gently pull up until your heel is touching or moving toward your butt. Hold for 6 to 8 breaths. Gently release and switch sides.

4. Side Stretch

Aim: Lengthens the muscles between the ribs and pelvis, including the lower back. By opening the sides of the rib cage and expanding the lungs, this makes breathing easier, which is particularly helpful in the small, sometimes stuffy, confines of a plane.

How: Go for a stroll around the cabin to re-energize your body.  Find a little space – usually there’s a little more room outside the bathroom area towards the back of the plane.  Step back with your feet hip width.  Raise your right arm, sideways, toward the sky. When you exhale, keeping your chin tucked in, lean over to left side until you feel a gentle stretch on your right side.  Hold for 5-10 breaths before repeating the other side.

Of course, do be mindful of others and your own safety when practicing these or any other yoga poses on the plane.  Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the flight also to keep yourself hydrated.   Most of all, though, breathe deeply,  stay energized and have a happy and healthy holiday.


Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyu and a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

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How Your Words Can Prevent Injury

When you take a yoga teacher training, a lot of concepts are thrown your way in a short period of time.  You may even start dreaming in Sanskrit. The experience is intense and by the time it is over, you may feel the same way first-time parents do when they take their child home from the hospital. It is the whole, “What the F$%# am I doing?”

You remind people to breathe deeply on a regular basis, so the first step is to take a deep breath for yourself.  Remember to put on your oxygen mask first before anyone else’s.  Then, when you have a class in front of you, it is about them.  As you teach, the words you use can be as important as the sequence you prepare.  Here are six phrases to make part of your repertoire:


  • Use your breath. You may start to feel like a broken record. “Move with your breath.” “Use your breath as a guide.” Or sometimes: “Just breathe.” You can never say it too much. Students have the tendency to hold their breath when they are holding a pose.  The quality of the breath will help to enhance the quality of the yoga practice.  Also, if they are listening to their deepest inner teacher, they will notice if a pose affects their breath.  Make sure that they know that if there is an abrupt breathing change that they must listen.  It may be their body’s signal to get out.
  • Everything you do in yoga is a pose.  Make sure the students keep their transitions slow and mindful.  Otherwise, students may have a tendency to snap out of the pose as soon as you cue the second side.  The body is likely already in an unnatural position and a quick exit can be the quickest route to injury or exacerbating a pre-existing condition.
  • Do less. When we get into a shape, many students try to take it to its full extension right off of the bat.  Make sure that they aren’t overzealous and that they are giving the body time.  Yoga is a way to rush less and be more.  Even so, many people are using the yoga mat as a microcosm for the rest of their lives by rushing the process.  By doing less, they will be very clear of their ‘edge.’  The edge is not the edge before they fall off a cliff.  It is the edge of bliss.
  • Start with bent knees.  It is the lucky few who can forward fold with a long straight spine and straight legs.  Most students have tight hamstrings, tight shoulders or a tight spine and will have to round to get closer to the floor.  Rounding causes the spine to bend in the opposite way that it is supposed to and may leave the student achy (not what you’re looking for).  In Uttanasana or Paschimottanasana  you can cue bent knees for everyone to start.  After five breaths, you can invite them to move further if you see that your class is more flexible or advanced.  Nine times out of ten that will not be the case.
  • Move within the space of the joint.  Yoga is about becoming more spacious and flexibility is determined by the amount of movement available at the joint.  We can access our students’ hamstrings by getting them to note their knees and hips.  This is also why it is important to know if your students are nursing any particular injuries.
  • Start from the ground up.  Alignment helps your students to find their energetic anatomy, but also to stay safe.  So many time, poses may look off kilter or unsafe by something as simple as the fact that the feet were turned out.  Start there and have your students build a solid relationship with the ground.

Your students come to yoga to get out of their own heads.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing.  You want to be sure that they aren’t listening to your words more than they are their own bodies.  As a teacher, it is your job to help them to find their inner teacher. Accessing this benevolent voice can help to keep their injuries to a minimum.


Courtney Sunday is a freelance writer and RYT500 who teaches globally.  She runs small and affordable Yoga Alliance teacher-training programs set on developing conscious and well-versed teachers.  It is her belief that every teacher has a specific light and a specific gift to give the yoga world.  Contact her at www.courtneysunday.com if you are interested or if you would like to practice with Courtney through muuyu.

Asana Investigation: Focus Backbends

Angela’s Yoga Lab: Exploration on the Mat

In my classes of late, I have been focusing on habitual pattern forming, working with the Amydala, (two almond shaped glands situated in the brain) that are responsible for memory function, patterns and relationship forming.  As part of this  I have been tapping into those Asanas that involve backbending.  Backbends are also fantastic for exploring and tracking sensation, a topic I discussed in my previous Muuyu blog article.

Going backwards allows us to address our fears.

Journeying into Yoga backbends you will quickly meet your emotional and physical edge/s –  which is a juicy and interesting place to begin to name and track inner sensation!  Often going backwards can evoke a lot of fear regardless of the ‘level’ you are at.

When we address fear on the Yoga mat, it also provides an opportunity to confront ourselves and investigate our habitual ways of dealing with fear which,  as I have learned,  can be a great catalyst for change.

Being curious when our fears become exposed, we can quickly see what is functioning within us and what is not.

For example  I love the transition from dropping back from Tadasana into Urdhva Dhanurasana (wheel)  which can be viewed as “literally dropping backwards” into the unknown. To master the drop requires a steady,  controlled mind,  an equanamous mind,  in the face of the unknown.

Asanas are there to serve us.

Asanas going into spinal extension involve going into the central nervous system of the spine. The spine is responsible for efficient nervous response, motor control, efficient functioning of the organs and providing accurate feedback to the brain in response to stimuli. When we are not rigid in our responses we can train to become more flexible in our mind.  When we have blockages in the mind or the body, using Asanas such as backbends are a way to find new ways serve us, and where fear is involved, to investigate the fears that limit or hold us back.

Backbends also assist the reproductive organs and help to cleanse the digestive system, stomach, colon, intestines and the prostate aiding in preventing disease.

Backbending also works with The Shushumna Nadi line – the channel that allows energy to flow from the base of the spine – up the central channel of the body toward the crown of the head.  With regards to Nadi shoma  we can view backbends as a way of cleansing out the Shushumna channel and potentially any old patterns that exist within the central nervous system.

A healthy, regular backbending practice removes blockages along the spine allowing energy to flow more freely within the body.

Be mindful of how to avoid injury.

Of course, as with any Asana, be aware not to push past your edge in backbends.  Injury is a definite possibility and if new to backbending in Yoga practice,  work with an experienced Yoga teacher who understands the anatomy of safe backbends to ensure you do not compress the spine.  Ensure your teacher is someone who makes you feel safe and who can offer modifications, props and hands on adjustments.

Be sure to warm the body efficiently before attempting back bending.  Intermediate to advanced backbends are always the peak Asana in my classes allowing time to build up to them.  Do not jump into a backbend cold and always use twisting to neutralize the spine post back bending.

Entry level backbends such as Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing dog), Cobra and Ustrasana ( camel Pose) are a good place to start.

Q: have you encountered fears, mental blocks during back bending?

Do you enjoy backbends or find them intimidating?

I love to hear your feedback, so please share your thoughts. Thank you for reading!

 Request a backbending themed class with Angela on Muuyu.com

Yoga Teacher; Forrest Yoga; Asanas; Vinyasa; Muuyu;

Australian-born Angela Collins is a yoga teacher based in Berlin.  RYS Certified, trained in Vinyasa Flow Yoga, and a graduate of Advanced Teacher Training in Forrest Yoga,  Angela is committed to nourishing  mind and body both off and on the mat.   She has had the privilege of teaching Yoga across the globe in Australia, Thailand, Germany, UK, France and with people of all differing ages, nationalities, and needs.  Having trained alongside Mark Stephens, Kathryn Budig, Kino McGregor and Ana. T Forrest, Angela now teaches a number of different Yoga disciplines including Pregnancy Yoga, Yoga for Addicts, Yoga for Athletes, and child Yoga.

Connect with her here on Muuyu.com or on her own website  www.endorphinyoga.eu as well as on Twitter.

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