I would like to begin with the same suggestion I did in the first part of this blog: If you have never done yoga before and/or you have an injury or physical condition currently, please talk to your health care provider before starting a practice. There are physical conditions that do require some modifications of yoga practice.
So let us imagine ourselves at this point squeezing into a seat on a plane and consider what movements could be helpful in getting through the flight.
The first question is “where to sit?”. If you are in the first row you will not be able to keep stuff under the seat in front of you,... but you will have more leg room, which might be useful if you have long legs or get really stiff. My family has 4 and when I travel with them I try to get a block of seats so I can put myself behind a family member. That way if I want I can stand up and bend over the seat in front of me, or move my foot slightly into their space. An aisle seat is also better, as you can move your feet along the side of the seat, assuming you can do so while no one is walking down the aisle.
When you are ready for a stretch it might be good to time it with a trip to the restroom. That way you can do some standing stretches next to the door, or next to your seat.
Also: Focus on range of motion rather than long holds. When you hold a stretch in one direction you create compression in the other, and this is already a time when you will not be able to keep a very full range of motion.
Here is a sequence I find helpful:
If possible slip off your shoes. Point and flex the toes (plantar and dorsi flex). Circle the ankles. Open and close the toes. Put your foot on the floor and imagine (together or one at a time) you are picking up a sheet of paper with your toes.
Placing both hands directly under one thigh gently pull the thigh up as much as room permits and as is comfortable (your tray needs to be up for this one). As you do so lightly press your navel toward your knee and lift your rib cage. Repeat on the other side.
If your legs are short enough lift one foot and cross your ankle over the other thigh. (if you can do so with no strain at the ankle joint, or inconvenience to your seat mate. Gently press down on the crossed leg. Once again press forward and p with your navel and knee. Release and point and flex the ankle again before repeating the sequence on the other side.
Stand next to your seat, facing in. Holding the seat back and keeping your knees roughly together bend one knee and use your other hand to reach for your foot. Alternately you can face to the front or back of the plane, rather than facing into your seat. You can do the other side by turning, or do it when you return down the aisle. DO NOT DO THIS STRETCH IF THERE IS ANY TURBULANCE. DO NOT PULL HARD ON THE KNEE JOINT OR HOLD FOR LONGER THAN A FEW SECONDS.
If you have standing space near the restroom you can try holding the wall and standing on your toes for a few seconds, and then placing your back on the wall and walking your feet forward a bit as you bend your knees. Do not let the knees bend past a 90 degree angle to the ankle. Lightly press your back to the wall.
Other possibilities are quite varied, but will depend on your balance (which will be off due to the plane movement, even if it is usually very good) and your flexibility, as well as how full the plane is, and what model it is.
Once you are seated again you can easily practice cat and cow, holding the handrests, or resting hands on thighs. (table still up )
You can do a crescent side stretch by lifting one hand up as though you were going to push the light, pressing the other hand onto the seat and slightly bending it as you tip away from the lifted hand, pressing your sitting bones down into the seat.
You can do seated spinal twist (ardha matsyendrasana). Remember the basic rule: lift the spine before you twist, and do not twist too far. (see the recent blog on spinal twists).
You can do cow face (lifting one arm, bending the elbow, bending the other arm, and reaching to clasp the hands behind the back and then repeating on the other side).
You can do shoulder rolls (I like to do 6 and then move in the reverse direction)
Stretching the neck is also helpful, but remember not to do a full circle. Lengthen the spine, drop the right ear to the right shoulder and roll the chin down across the chest and up with the left ear to the left shoulder. Then repeat in the reverse direction. Please take extra care with the neck, especially if there are issues of arthritis (see beginning of post). Alternately after you drop the right ear to the right shoulder lift the left jaw away from the left shoulder at an angle.
Please do not forget your pranayama. Sit and breathe, counting the breaths if you like, allowing the exhale to be slightly longer than the inhale. Listen for the sound of the breath. Feel the movement of the ribs and shoulders. Give yourself a few moments just to sit and release as you finish.
I hope wherever your travels take you you find joy, adventure, and friendship.