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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