Last updated December 4, 2021
Here’s a quick stretch sequence you can do while waiting at the gate to board—no yoga mat needed. We all have that downtime where we rushed to the gate only to find out we need to wait longer. Get out of the habit of scrolling, and in place of, insert stretching. Think, “scroll for stretch” as a mantra.
Instead of just staring down at your phone complaining about the delay, do this quick set of stretches instead. It’ll leave your body feeling better for the flight ahead and your mind. In general, you can repeat these stretches 30 seconds, or five times on each respective side; but, feel free to do as long or as much as feels good—or, you have to wait.
Feel weird? Have no shame—you’re going to start inspiring other people to do this, too.
Easy Stretch 1: Neck rolls
We’re going to start with some simple and effective neck rolls.
In a smooth, even-paced format, lean your right ear over toward your right shoulder, bring your head down through center over to the left and then bring it back in the other direction over to the right down through center. Come back up.
Let’s do it again. One more each side over to the right down through center. Take it over to the left. Then reverse it down through center. Over to the right, back on up.
Easy Stretch 2: Overhead side bend shoulder stretch
Grabbing opposite elbows, bring your arms up overhead. Grab your left wrist with your right hand, inhale, stretch up higher, exhale and side bend over toward the right. Come on back through center to repeat that over to the left. We’re going to repeat that again on the other side. Remember to keep breathing. Grab your right wrist with your left hand, inhale, stretch up higher, exhale and side bend over toward the left. Come on back through center to repeat that over to the right.
The second part of this stretch: as the arms are up overhead, bring your left hand toward your right shoulder or behind your head somewhere. Lean over to the right, stretching out the shoulders and your tricep. If possible, lean your head back into the crook of your elbow. Go ahead and switch sides, now taking the right hand toward the left shoulder, leaning left.
Easy Stretch 3: Interlaced hands behind the back
Release the arms down from your side and interlace your hands at the small of your back; or, grab opposite elbows, cupping them with your hands behind you. Pull your shoulders back and lift up tall through your chest.
Another option if your hands are interlaced is to extend the arms all the way. You should feel this in the shoulders and your upper back. Relax. We’re going to do that one to two more times. Take a deep breath in, shoulders back, chest lifts, maybe move hands away. Release.
Easy Stretch 4: Standing seated twist
While standing at the gate, do a little squat. If needed for balance you can use your carry-on suitcase or find a pillar or a wall. Bending the knees, take your hands together. Inhale and lengthen the spine out. As you exhale, hook your right elbow over your left knee. Deep breath in. Exhale, twist. Repeat for three full rounds of breathing.
Inhale back to center and let’s switch sides. Twist to the right, left elbow over the right knee. Inhale. Exhale. Rinse and repeat.
Easy Stretch 5: Standing leg mobility stretches
Coming back up to standing, if you aren’t already, we’re moving into some hip mobility circles. These can be fantastic for preventing sore or stiff hip flexors and gets the blood flowing into the lower part of the body. Because we’re balancing, you can use your carry-on bag as stability or grab a pole or a wall while you’re waiting. Just don’t use your neighbor.
Bring the right knee up into your chest, crossing over your body and out to the side. And again, you’re just making circles with your knee. If you want to test your balance, go in the opposite direction with your knee. Let’s do the other leg, crossing over, opening the hip, then switching directions.
Last up, taking some ankle rolls. Think of your foot shaped like it’s in a high heel. On the ball of your foot, make some circles in one direction; then, switch directions. Obviously, if you really are wearing heels, you can adjust, take them off, and make air circles instead.
P.S. This is (another reason) why I recommend wearing sneakers.
Easy Stretch 6: Shoulder rolls
Last one, bring the shoulders up near the ears as if you were freezing cold and lacking a scarf on the inhale. Drop them on down the back on the exhale, letting go. Repeat at least five times. This one can be a strong stress reliever.
Mini yoga travel class, complete. Time to fly! Here’s a tip: you can also do most of these stretches while you’re seated in the airplane in flight. Your body, circulation, energy level and travel recovery time will thank you.
Do you stretch while traveling? What’s your favorite post or stretch?