Traveling over the holidays is often synonymous with stress and exhaustion. Being mindful, kind, and calm in a crowded airport is a challenge. Lucky for us, Avery Westlund, decided to do something about it.
Avery is the co-founder of Yoga on the Fly, a company dedicated to improving your travel experience. Their in-airport yoga studios help us keep our physical and mental health in good shape, no matter how tumultuous the travel day may be.
Splendid Spoon: Hi Avery! Tell us your journey to creating Yoga on the Fly.
Avery Westlund: Hi Spooners! My co-founder Elizabeth and I met teaching on a yoga retreat in Nicaragua. As we sat on a pristine beach, we complained about how physically and psychologically beaten we felt from the journey there.
We both love travelling, but hate the adverse effects it has on body and mind. Travel is magical, but getting from A to B is a grind. We started to consider how yoga (including mindfulness practices, meditation, and breathwork) can be used to recuperate from travel, and preempt and prevent the physical and mental discomforts. Plus, when people can invest in their own wellbeing, they’re kinder to each other, which makes for a more positive travel experience!
Our goal was to bring the benefits of yoga to the challenging, unconventional spaces that make airports. Two years later, we opened our first space in Denver!
SS: How can we use movement before, during, or after a trip to destress and get grounded?
AW: Any movement is incredibly helpful: it demands your presence. You have to connect to yourself to do it. This can help ease frustration by taking your focus inward, away from the source of stress. It’s also great for circulation, stress-relief, anxiety, and stiffness.
SS: What are your top tips to ease travel anxiety?
AW: Yoga, breathing, and meditation practices, both in the airport and on the plane. I crave movement to loosen up after schlepping luggage around, and stillness and breath helps me maintain perspective while I travel.
If Yoga on the Fly isn’t available on your itinerary (we’re working on it, promise!), there are plenty of mediation and yoga apps. They may not provide the privacy and quiet you’re seeking, but they’ll help!
Also, drink water, not wine. I love wine as much as the next person, but it makes me feel worse, not better, during and after travel. And on the most stressful days, I take a dose of Wooden Spoon Herbs’ Anxiety Ally tincture. It’s a natural herbal blend that helps relieve stress and anxiety.
SS: What movements can we do on a flight to get our blood flowing?
AW: From your seat, point and flex the feet and roll the ankles in circles. Do the same with the neck and wrists. Also try a simple side bend (this can be done seated or standing) to stretch the sides of the body. Reach right arm overhead, grab right wrist with left hand, reach long through the right arm and, lean to the left. Root down through the right foot if standing or the right sit-bone if seated. Take five deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Spinal twists are also helpful. Sit up straight, squeeze your lower belly in, and twist. Try it standing up: you can be more fluid with the movement as you gently twist back and forth and from side to side, moving your arms with you.
SS: Airports are uncomfortable places. How do you create peaceful spaces within them?
AW: This was a huge priority for us as we created Yoga on the Fly. Our goal was serene efficiency. We wanted a minimalist, spa-like experience, so we chose soft colors, gentle music, and always have essential oils diffusing — many people are drawn in by the calming smells! It feels like you’ve left the chaotic airport as soon as you cross the threshold.
The other key piece was privacy, hence the individual mini-studios. Guided movement and deep breathing can work wonders in a short amount of time, particularly when you’re removed from the overstimulation of the terminal.
SS: What practices keep you calm while traveling?
AW: The first thing I do is remind myself I have almost no control over what’s happening around me. Rather than clenching my jaw and muttering when the person in front of me doesn’t take their shoes off in the TSA line, I take a breath and try to be compassionate.
Sound and smell are also important to me. I travel with oils — I’m obsessed with Zaq’s Balance Blend. For a red-eye I bring calming lavender to help with sleep and energizing peppermint for when I land. I also pack headphones: they allow me to create space between myself and the noise, whether I’m listening to music, a meditation, or nothing!
SS: What are your go-to travel snacks and meals?
AW: This one’s a struggle for me! I’ve often wished Splendid Spoon were available in the airport. I always eat before I get to the terminal and bring fruit with me. I’m vegetarian, limit gluten, and can’t eat nuts, so travel snacks don’t come easy! I try to stick to salads and seeds, and love a good hummus and veggie snack when I can find it.
SS: When do you feel most at peace?
AW: When I’m with my husband and dog, my phone off, on my deck at home, looking out over the marsh and water. I also crave solitude. I’m pretty good at carrying peace with me, but my exhalations are always deepest when I’m home alone or with my closest loved ones.