Airplanes are a fabulous way to travel between destinations quickly and efficiently. However, remaining seated for an extended period of time thousands of miles up in the sky results in many dangerous health risks on the body! You can easily reduce or even prevent problems by performing the stretches in this blog post.
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Negative effects flying has on the body:
- The oxygen level in your blood drops as a result of the cabins being pressurized to simulate a 6,000 to 8,000-foot elevation on Earth. This causes sleepiness, dizziness and having a general lack of mental sharpness.
- Blood stops circulating as efficiently as it should, and collects in your legs and feet causing the area to swell. In serious cases, this develops in to blood clots within the legs, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
- As a plane gains altitude and cabin pressure drops, the gas in your intestines expands. Your stomach might feel full or cramped which can lead to pain, bloating or worse.
- Being seated for an extended period of time shortens the muscles around the hip and lower back area, hamstrings and calves, and prevents proper blood circulation to nourish the muscles in these areas. This causes tightness and pain when you eventually stand up again.
By performing just a few of these simple moves before you travel, you give your body a multitude of benefits: lengthening the muscles that shorten while seated; massaging your internal organs, improving circulation and relieving anxiety you may experience before and during your flight.
Travel Stretch 1: Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
Begin your pre-flight stretching with lotus pose together with a pranayama (breathing) exercise to centre your mind and focus to the practice. This meditation practice will also aid in mental health and the calming of any pre-flight fears.
Don’t worry if you are not yet able to sit in full lotus comfortably, concentrate on alternating each leg in a half lotus until it feels gradually more natural over time.
Sit upright, acknowledging the straight lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head. Form each hand in to Gyan mudra (touching your index fingertip to the tip of your thumb, while holding your other three fingers straight) and place the backs of the hands on each knee.
Once you are ready, the most effective way of relaxing the nerves and quietening the mind is to take nice long deep breaths and then to focus especially on extending the exhales. This method will help to bring your awareness to breathing and distract your mind while your body and mind becomes naturally soothed.
Benefits for flying:
- Calms the brain to combat pre-flight anxiety or stress from traveling.
- Stimulates the pelvis, spine, abdomen, and bladder ready to be worked on during the rest of the yoga practice.
- Stretches the ankles and knee muscles which are shortened while seated for long travel periods.
- Gyan mudra helps to improve concentration.
- Consult in your doctor before doing this pose if you have ankle or knee problems.
Travel Stretch 2: Cow Face Pose (Gomukhasana)
Again, sit upright, acknowledging the straight lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.
Bend your legs and place one knee over the other, keeping the feet flexed and pulling them back inline with the hips.
If you are unable to cross your hands behind your back yet, use a prop, such as a piece of clothing, as a strap between your hands. Gradually overtime as you work the hands toward each other you will eventually be able to clasp them.
Hold for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths (one inhale and one exhale)
- Deeply opens shoulders and chest before you endure hours of hunching in your plane seat.
- Lengthens the ankles, hips and thighs, which are shortened while seated during travel.
- Consult in your doctor before doing this yoga pose if you have serious neck or shoulder problems.
Travel Stretch 3: Butterfly Pose (Badha Konasana)
Sitting up tall, bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to drop towards the floor into a diamond shape. You may use props under the knees if you find the pose difficult to begin with. To attempt a deeper version of this stretch, bring your heels closer to your hips and gradually lower your chest towards the floor on each exhale.
Hold for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.
- Loosens up the groin and hips which become compressed while seated.
- Relieves stress and tiredness, which is perfect to combat stressful travel days.
- Stimulates the digestive organs ready to be stretched.
- If you have Groin or knee injury, only perform this yoga pose with blanket support under the outer thighs.
Travel Stretch 4: Half Lord of the Fishes Pose (Ardha Mastyendrasana)
Place one foot flat on the floor outside the opposite leg and twist the torso toward the top leg. The bottom leg may be bent with the foot outside the opposite hip, or extended with toes vertical. The arms help leverage the torso into the twist by using the opposite elbow to the outside of the opposite knee and pushing in to the twist. The other hand is used for balance and to help keep the chest open and back straight.
Again form the free hand in to Gyan mudra and hold the pose for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.
- Detoxifies the body before a long flight.
- Releases tension in the neck and back, making you feel more relaxed and uplifted before your travel.
- The twisting motion of this pose literally wrings out the digestive organs. This is especially important pre-flight to rid the digestive system of gas that can expand during traveling on the flight and cause discomfort.
- Gyan mudra helps to improve concentration, so you can get the most out of your pre-travel practice.
- Do not do this yoga pose if you have suffered a spinal or back injury, or you are pregnant.
Travel Stretch 5: Low lunge/ Crescent Moon Pose (Anjaneyasana)
Bend your right knee, keeping your right ankle directly beneath it, and place the left knee onto the mat and untuck your toes. Sink your pelvis forward as you place your palms on the front knee for balance. Deepen the stretch by reaching the hands up past the ears and lean back slightly.
Hold for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.
- Opens the hip flexors that become compressed while seated for the duration of traveling.
- Reduces lower back pain and tightness that can be uncomfortable when sitting for long periods of travel time.
- Please consult your doctor before doing this pose if you suffer from heart conditions
Travel Stretch 6: Mermaid Pose (Eka Pada Rajakpotasana)
Practice this yoga posture only when you are fully warm by preparing the body with the lunges, slight backbends and shoulder openers within the previous poses in this blog. The image is an advanced standing variation of the mermaid yoga pose. However, for the standard mermaid yoga pose, sit down and place your shin down and parallel in front of your body. Straighten your other leg behind you and bring your bottom leg up, tucking the foot in to the elbow and clasping the hands together, as in the photo. If you are not yet able to do this, reach behind with the same side hand and focus on bringing the bottom leg up, using the other hand on the floor to the side of you for support.
Hold for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.
- Freedom from back ache and sciatica which can cause intense discomfort while seated for long hours of travel time.
- Lengthens and strengthens the lower back, quad muscles, and hip flexors which become contracted during the flight.
- A stronger and more potent digestive system to reduce any stomach discomfort during and after the flight.
- Please consult your doctor if you have knee problems before doing this yoga pose
Download the Free Airport Yoga PDF Guide!
Get In Touch!
If you have any questions regarding any of the yoga poses illustrated in this blog post, please feel free to contact me for more detailed guidance and tips on how to progress with the stretches.
Don’t forget to take a picture or video next time you stretch at the airport and tag @Vibrant_Yogini on Instagram, post on the Facebook Page or Email Me! I would love to send you my support and see your stretches.
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Sending you peace and comfort for your travels.
P.S. All images of yoga poses used within this blog post were produced at the gate in Hong Kong airport while waiting for my flight to Siem Reap, Cambodia. If I can set up my mat and do stretches while traveling in a busy airport, so can you! Reap the benefits of practicing yoga at the airport before your flight and practice the stretches in this blog post ☺