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Baggage Claim Yoga: Post-Flight Exercises

May 14, 2017
4 min read
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Everyone hates waiting for bags after a long flight; your body is usually achy and stiff. So what better time to fit in some yoga? Here's a short series of poses I typically do in the airport baggage claim area. I recommend using a wall, a chair or even your carry-on bag handle as balance support. This sequence is particularly recommended for travelers with back and neck pain.

Downhill Skier

This move is designed to reestablish the lordotic (inward) curve in your lower back after having been in a flat position for most of the flight (we all tend to sit with a rounded or flat lower back by resting back into the seat).

Ross Rayburn demonstrates the "downhill skier" yoga exercise.
  1. Stand with your feet parallel, hip-width apart
  2. Bend your knees and place your elbows on your knees — into a downhill skier position
  3. By bending your knees and sticking your butt out, you create an inward arch in your lower back (the opposite of a flat/rounded back)
  4. Note: For people who are more flexible (indicated by front rib cage popping significantly forward), use your abdominal muscles to keep your rib cage toned
  5. Keeping the arch in your lower back, extend your spine longer through the top of your head (imagine the top of your head was pressing on the ceiling)
  6. Maintain the curve in the lower back while lengthening the spine for three to five deep breaths

Standing Triangle Twist

Twisting the spine is a big relief for your back. One of the secrets behind doing it right is to create stable resistance in the parts of your body that are naturally mobile or flexible, so that it’s an actual twist of the spine and its muscles rather than unstable twisting, which has a less profound effect on the back.

The "standing triangle twist" will help relieve pain and stiffness in the back.
  1. Stand with left foot about two to three feet in front of the other. The front foot faces forward, the back foot (right foot) is angled 45 degrees and turned out
  2. Stabilize your feet and shins by isometrically scissoring them together (in other words, pull your feet and the shins toward each other without any movement)
  3. Twist your torso toward the front foot. Only twist about half of your maximum twist
  4. Keeping the lower legs steady, add some toned stability to your hips and lower back (imagine an abdominal corset getting a bit tighter)
  5. Stabilize the back knee (as you twist your torso, the knee will tend to twist as well, so it's better instead to keep it steadily pointing toward the same direction as the back foot)
  6. Increase the twist just short of your maximum (a maximum twist would have a forced or aggressive quality, which is not advisable)
  7. Hold for three to five deep breaths
  8. Repeat with feet in opposite starting locations

Shoulder Stretches

This move is particularly good for your upper back, shoulders and neck.

Ross Rayburn demonstrates shoulder stretches to try after flying.
  1. Stand tall with your legs hip-width apart
  2. Interlace your fingers behind your back
  3. Take such a deep breath that your chest puffs up like a superhero character — taller and wider across your upper back (avoid shrugging your shoulders)
  4. Keep your head and neck steady by imagining pressing your head back against a headrest
  5. Stretch your chest and shoulders by extending your hands and arms farther behind you and by standing even taller and wider
  6. Hold the post for three to five deep breaths

You might feel strange doing stretches while everyone else is standing around, but ignore that feeling! Your back and overall attitude will be so much better if you take advantage of this wait time to clear the deleterious effects of flying.

Ross Rayburn is a guest columnist for TPG. He teaches yoga workshops, trainings and retreats all around the world. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter and at

All images by Brendan Dorsey, TPG's Assistant Editor.