LONG PLANE RIDES can wreak havoc on the body by causing back pain, stiff joints and a general feeling of malaise. Prolonged sitting and inactivity may also place you at risk for deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot which starts in the legs.
You should be doing some yoga. The good news – it can be done from a narrow plane seat.
Here’s a sequence that I’ve tested in many standard economy class plane seats without bothering neighbors or gaining me (too many) quizzical stares.
Before the Flight
- Reserve an aisle seat. It will allow you to stretch your limbs and give you the freedom to walk the aisle without climbing over others.
- Bring ear plugs to counteract the air pressure changes in the cabin that causes your ears to pop. Ear plugs can also tune out the external noise during your yoga practice. For the best variety, visit Earplug Superstore.
- A tennis ball can be used as a handy massage tool to loosen the residual tight spots after the yoga practice. Used on its own, it works to improve blood circulation.
The Yoga Practice
To experience the full benefits of the postures, aim to hold each pose for at least 30 seconds.
Draw your shoulders back and clasp your palms behind you. Pull your clasped palms away from you and feel your chest and shoulders opening.
With your feet planted firmly on the ground, press your palms onto your knees and arch your spine up towards the ceiling. Reverse the curve by exhaling and tucking your tail bone under, while rounding your back into an exaggerated C curve. Repeat until you feel relief.
This will work your core from a seated position. Support your back fully on the back of the chair. Exhale and draw your navel towards your spine, imagining your spine fully imprinting onto the back of the chair. Hold for a few breaths and release to the original starting position. Repeat.
Sit at the edge of your chair and squeeze your legs together. On an exhale, draw your navel to the spine and lift the legs off of the floor a couple of inches while balancing on your sit bones. Extend the arms parallel to the floor and maintain a lift through the back and hold. To increase the challenge, lower and lift your legs several times.
Ashtanga Lift Ups
Do these when you have the arm rests to yourself. Exhale and press down firmly on the arm rests with both hands. Curl your spine into a C curve while lifting your body off of the seat an inch or two. Hold for a few breaths and lower.
Extend your arms towards the ceiling with the palms facing one another. Stretch your spine upwards, while keeping your shoulders away from the ears.
Baby Half Moon
Extend your arms above your head and interlace your hands into a steeple grip with the index finger pointing towards the sky. Inhale, extend your spine upwards. Bend your upper torso up and over towards the right. Stop when you’re close to hitting your neighbor. Repeat on the left.
Sit with your sit bones on the edge of the chair and extended your legs straight out in front of you. Inhale and lengthen your spine. On an exhale, hinge forward from your hips, attempting to fold your upper torso over your legs.
Baby Back Bend
Sit towards the edge of your chair and place your palms directly behind your hips with the finger tips facing towards you. Press down onto the seat with your palms and arch your sternum towards the sky. Continue to squeeze your shoulder blades behind you while keeping the head and neck aligned with the rest of your spine.
Place your feet on the ground hip width apart. Press your left palm onto the outside of your right knee and rotate your upper torso towards the right. Look over your right shoulder if it doesn’t bother your neck. Repeat to the left.
Tennis Ball Massage
Place a tennis ball between your upper back and the back of your chair. Roll the ball around and find the knots which need loosening.
Continue the motion as you make your way down the entire spinal column. End with a foot massage—roll the ball between the soles of your feet and the floor.
To enhance your final relaxation pose, roll up a shirt to the width of 1 to 2” and place it either behind your lumbar or cervical curve.
Allow your feet to flop open to the sides, position your palms to face the ceiling. Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in a warm cocoon. Rest as long as you like—after all, you’ve got lots of time left until arrival.
What are some other mobile yoga poses? Share them below!
Need some tips on simple yoga techniques once you’re off the plane and onto the sand? Then check out Ian MacKenzie’s Simple Beach Yoga For Backpackers. You can also practice these poses on the flight to one of the yoga retreats outlined in Yoga Retreats on Koh Phangan, Thailand.
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