7 Seated Stretches For Long Airplane Journeys

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Inflight yoga stretches for flight travel health

 

AIRPLANES are a fabulously quick way of getting between your desired destinations promptly. It is lucky to live in an era where we have the opportunity to travel all over the world! However, like most things in life, we have to take a balanced view and know that there ARE health implications obtained by sitting in a small capsule for a while, flying through the atmosphere at just under 1000 miles per hour! (light bulb moment?? 😉 Most of us will just put up with the negative affects we experience from using airplanes. However, we CAN help to improve our travel experience a lot more and recover much more quickly by preventing the issues from arising in the first place!

In this article I will discuss the negative effects that travelling by airplane has on the body. I will then provide guidance to help you to minimise these health problems for your future travels!

 

DID you forget to stretch before your flight?  No worries! Simply perform the in-flight-friendly seated stretches illustrated in this article (link to PDF download) onboard your next flight to reduce the damaging effects of extended periods of sitting.

Content overview

This article will cover the following:

  • Health dangers of flying
    1. Excuses, excuses
    2. Get moving
    3. Focus your mind
  • The seven seated stretches
    1. Neck release
    2. Back release
    3. Cat-cow pose
    4. Spinal twist
    5. Shoulders
    6. Thigh lifts
    7. Ankles
    8. Mountain pose
    9. High lunge warrior I
  • Additional extras

 

If you have already read my previous blog post on stretching before your flight, skip down to the ‘excuses’ section, otherwise continue reading


Health dangers of flying:

Airplanes are a fabulous way of traveling between destinations quickly and efficiently. However, sitting for an extended period of time thousands of miles up in the sky results in negative health effects 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 well as it should and collects in your legs and feet causing the area to swell. In serious cases, this develops in to leg clots, also known as deep vein thrombosis.
  • As a plane rises 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.

Excuses, Excuses!

Before my yoga journey started, I always knew that I should get my often tired and lethargic butt out of my seat during a flight to get the blood flowing. But, like most things in life, sometimes even if we know the benefits or consequences of a situation or an action, we still find excuses to bury our heads in the sand. I have created this simple to follow the in-flight guide of seated stretches (link again) to overcome common excuses and to get your body moving, without even having to leave your seat!

 

Can you relate to any of the following?

 

  • MIND: “I mustn’t disturb my in-flight neighbor, I will have to bother them to get out of my seat to even be able to do any exercises” –this was a popular excuse of mine, and only ever ‘disturbed’ a neighbor if nature called.
  • REALITY: you are not asking much of them, it is simple flight etiquette if you chose an aisle or middle seat in economy, you will have to, at some point during the flight, move out of the way to allow your neighbor some freedom to leave their seat!

 

  • MIND: “What if I look silly, I feel embarrassed doing this in such close proximity to people”
  • REALITY: Travelling solo? Either you will never see these people again, or it is a great conversation starter. Travelling with others? Why not encourage each other and become accountability partners for the flight?

 

  • MIND: “The flight isn’t that long, I should be OK, right?”
  • REALITY: The long and short of it, whether you are flying for 1 hour or 24 hours, sitting down and being at a high altitude affects the body. Create good flying habits and your body will thank you for both the short and long-term.

Get moving!

If you have read all this blog so far, you should by now understand the benefits and necessities of stretching during a flight. Get your body moving during your next flight with the simple to follow exercises below.

Even better, if you are reading this and haven’t yet flown, or are waiting for your flight, check out my previous blog post on stretching before your flight to reap the health rewards of preparing your body for flights. If you are pregnant, I recommend reading this article on safe stretches you can practice during pregnancy. Remember, if you are already at the airport, get your pre-flight stretch on and don’t worry about people around you. In fact, just like a domino-affect, seeing you stretching will most likely encourage onlookers to think about their health too!

Focus your mind

Interesting fact: a person would have to fly on average once a day, every day for 22,000 years before they would die in a U.S. commercial airplane accident according to recent accident rates and flying is 200 times safer than driving.

 

Nonetheless, 1 in 3 Americans are either anxious or afraid to fly.

Sources: “Fear of Flying: Impact on the U.S. Air Travel Industry.” Robert D. Dean, Kerry M. Whitaker. A study sponsored by Boeing Commercial Airplane Company. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Dr. Arnold Barnett of MIT).

 

If you experience pre-flight jitters, the most effective way of overcoming anxiety is with the following deep yogic awareness breathing exercise, which helps to reduce stress and alleviate tension.

Try to focus on your exhales. This will calm your body as you boost your awareness. Then try to lengthen your exhales slightly longer than your inhales to soothe the body and mind.

THE SEVEN SEATED STRETCHES:

 

Seated Stretch 1: Neck-Release

PREPARATION: Sit upright in your seat, acknowledging the straight lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.

 

BREATHE:

  • Take a deep inhale.
  • As you slowly exhale, lean your nose towards your left shoulder. Reach your left hand to touch the right cheek with your left palm. Gently press your face gently towards your left shoulder to deepen the stretch.
  • Stay in this position and breathe deeply for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths.
  • On the final exhale, release the left arm and slowly roll the head forward, bringing your chin down towards your chest.
  • On the next inhale, lean your nose towards your right shoulder, and repeat the same set of movements as before but on the right side.

REPEAT: Repeat this set of stretching 2-3 more times.

 

Seated Stretch Neck Release

 

BREATHE:

  • Take a deep inhale.
  • As you slowly exhale, take yo your left ear towards your left shoulder. Reach your left arm over your head, touching the right cheek with your left palm. Gently press your left ear further towards your left shoulder to deepen the stretch.
  • Stay in this position and breathe deeply for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths.
  • On the final exhale, release the left arm and slowly roll the head forward, bringing your chin down towards your chest.
  • On the next inhale, lean your right ear towards your right shoulder, and repeat the same set of movements as before but on the right side.

REPEAT: Repeat this set of stretching 2-3 more times.

 

Seated Stretch Head Up

Seated Stretch Head Down

 

BREATHE: Next, over-exaggerate a nod of the head by taking a deep inhale and looking up towards the ceiling, and then as you exhale draw your chin down towards your chest.

REPEAT: Repeat for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.

Benefits:

  • An immediate sense of wellbeing and calmness.
  • Lengthens and stretches the neck muscles helping to quieten the mind.
  • The whole body feels relaxed.

Seated Stretch 2: Back Release

PREPARATION: Sit upright in your seat, acknowledging the straight lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head. Make sure your legs are bent at right angles so that your knees are in a direct vertical line with your ankles. Cross your right ankle over your left knee, leaving the left foot on the floor. Keep your right foot flexed to help protect the knee.

 

Seated stretches Back Release

 

BREATHE: Breathe deeply for a minimum of 4-6 breaths while focusing your attention on your lower back.

DEEPEN: If you wish to deepen the stretch, fold forward from the hips and bring your chest forward towards your thighs and keeping your back straight.

 

Seated stretches Back Release Fold

 

REPEAT: Repeat this stretch on the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Enhances the blood circulation and body coordination.
  • Strengthens lower back muscles, which helps improve posture.

Seated Stretch 3: Cow-Cat Pose (Bitilasana-Marjaryasana)

PREPARATION: Start by sitting on the edge of your seat, with your feet hip-distance apart and planted firmly under your knees. Straighten your arms, and place your hands on or near your knees. Before moving into the pose, establish the lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.

COW: As you inhale, start tilting your pelvis and abdomen outward so your hips move forward and your weight comes more onto the front edge of your sitting bones allowing your chest to arch up and forward. As you continue to inhale, gently lift your spine and lengthen into a gentle backbend. Lift your breastbone forward and up and allow your head and neck to lengthen out and back, coming into the Cow backbend.

 

Seated stretches Cat

 

CAT: As you exhale, start moving from your pelvis, curling your pelvis inwards in the opposite direction, moving the back of your waist backward and rocking onto the back part of your sitting bones. As you continue to exhale, allow your middle back to move back as well and drop your chin toward your chest, coming into the Cat forward bend.

 

Seated stretches Cow

 

REPEAT: Repeat both the Cow and Cat positions for a minimum of four-six times, moving with your breath, allowing your inhalations and exhalations to be slightly longer than they are when you are taking a resting breath.

Benefits:

  • Helps to release low back pain or stiffness or held tension anywhere from the hips to the neck.
  • General stress reliever during your flight.

Seated Stretch 4: Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

PREPARATION: Sit upright on your seat with your feet on the floor. Establish the lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head. Cross your left thigh over the top of your right. Place your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on the seat, just behind your left hip.

 

Seated Stretches Spinal Twist

 

BREATHE: Inhale and gently lift up through your spine and chest. Now twist your torso slowly to your left so that you’re looking over your left shoulder. Slowly Exhale as you deepen the stretch further by gently twisting slightly more and leveraging the right hand against your left knee to deepen the twist. Hold this position for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths.

REPEAT: Repeat these steps on the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Improves spinal flexibility.
  • Aids digestion and reduces constipation and gas.
  • Improves blood flow to vital organs.

Seated Stretch 5: Shoulders

PREPARATION: Sit comfortably and upright with your back against your seat and place a rolled-up blanket (ask a flight attendant if you do not already have one on your seat) lengthwise along your spine, against the back of your seat. Establish the lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.

 

Seated stretches shoulders

 

BREATHE: Inhale as you shrug your shoulders as high as possible, drawing them toward your ears. As you exhale, squeeze the shoulder blades together and then bring them down, keeping the shoulders back.

REPEAT: Repeat this for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths.

LOOSEN: Roll your shoulders forward five times, and then roll them backward five times.

Benefits:

  • Improves posture by strengthening the trapezius muscles.

Seated Stretch 6: Thigh Lifts

PREPARATION: Sit upright on your seat with your feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Establish the lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.

Try taking one leg at a time and imagining that you’re lifting the middle of the thigh up to the ceiling. Keep your back straight while you’re doing this and pull your belly button back in your seat.

 

Seated Stretches Thigh Lift

 

BREATHE: As you take a deep inhale, slowly lift one thigh up from the seat. Hold. As you exhale bring it back down to the seat.

REPEAT: Repeat for a minimum of 4-6 breaths.

Benefits:

  • Strengthens and improves circulation in the legs.

Seated Stretch 7: Ankles

PREPARATION: Sit upright on your seat with your feet grounded width distance apart firmly on the floor. Establish the lift of your spine, from your sitting bones through the crown of your head.

 

Seated Stretches Toes Up Seated Stretches Heels Up

 

BREATHE: As you take a deep inhale, slowly lift your heels together from the ground, pressing through the balls of your feet to rise high on your toes. As you exhale, lower your heels back to the floor, then lift your toes from the ground, pressing through your heels.

REPEAT: Repeat for a minimum of 4-6 deep breaths.

LOOSEN: Lift your right foot from the floor and roll the ankle in a clockwise direction ten times, the anti-clockwise ten times. Place back down and repeat with the left foot.

Benefits:

  • Improves circulation in legs and feet.

…Plus Two Extra Stretches If You Have Space!

For those of you willing to get out of your seat, find an empty area to stand up in, such as near the toilets at the back of the plane or train. Follow the exercises below:

BONUS Stretch 1: Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

PREPARATION: Stand up tall with your back straight, and establish the lift through your spine from your sitting bones through the crown of your head. Bring the feet together, toes pointing forward, and raise the arms up above the head either side of the ears, with the hands clasped together.

BREATHE: As you inhale, slowly raise the heels from the floor so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Hold for 4-6 deep breathes. Bring the heels and arms back down toward the floor on the final exhale.

REPEAT: Repeat for a minimum of 3-4 rounds.

Benefits:

  • Relieves sciatica.
  • Improves posture.
  • Increases awareness and steadies breathing.

BONUS Stretch 2: High Lunge Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I)

PREPARATION: From mountain pose, extend one foot behind and balancing on the ball of the foot. Keeping the back leg straight and hips facing forward, relax the hips and let them sink down towards the floor. Bending the front knee, ground through the front foot and make sure the front knee is in line with the front ankle.

BREATHE: As you inhale bring the arms over the head with the palms facing each other and keeping the shoulders relaxed and the chest lifted. As you exhale, push tailbone down towards the floor to deepen the stretch. Hold for 4-6 deep breaths.

REPEAT: Repeat on the opposite side.

Benefits:

  • Encourages good circulation and respiration.
  • Energises the entire body and improves focus, balance, and stability.

 

It is important that you practice these yoga poses on the airplane slowly and with care. If you have any special health conditions, please consult your doctor before doing any of the yoga poses illustrated in this blog post.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water during your flight to stay hydrated! 😉

Additional Extras

  • Overcome your fear of flying with Jeffrey Skiles (Sully)

Have you watched the film [easyazon_link identifier=”B01LVU3Q96″ locale=”US” tag=”vibrantyogini-20″]Sully[/easyazon_link]? If not it is a must! It is a true story based on the pilot who managed to land the US Airways Flight 1549 in to the Hudson river, after losing both his engines, saving ALL of his passengers. What is profound is the fact he was back flying in the cockpit only two weeks later with no fear! Because of his experience and strong-mindedness, he has created a program for people to combat the fear of flying, using his own techniques that have worked for all of his career. Click here to learn more.

  • Flight booking hack: learn how to save money on airfare!

Listen to the free video to find out how you can book expensive flights for a fraction of the price. Click here to learn more.

  • Yoga for healing video course

Yoga for Healing is a holistic practice that addresses the mind, body and the soul. We allow our bodies to build strength gently while working to heal our nervous system and mental space. In short…with Yoga for Healing you will: build strength, enhance joint movement, gain flexibility AND relax, modify and take things at your pace. The course is 7 videos plus a workbook. Click here to learn more and to watch the videos.

  • Yoga Burn free video

Watch the free yoga video to find out:

  • how to avoid 1 common yoga pitfall that often leads women to injury, stress and even weight gain.
  • 3 of the worst and most common yoga mistakes women make every day.
  • 3 powerful methods for women wanting to maximize the amazing benefits of yoga.
  • 1 brand new little yoga routine to help boost metabolism and shape your ‘yoga booty!’

Click here to watch the video for free and to find out more.

Connect With Vibrant Yogini

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 love to see your stretches.

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Wishing you a relaxed and healthy journey!

Namaste

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P.S. All images of seated stretches used within this blog post were produced on a 2-hour Qatar Airways flight from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. I had to get a travel buddy to take the photos, drawing attention to the fact I was stretching in my seat. The Flight was so fast that I barely had time to demonstrate the poses after take off before we had to get ready for landing! You will see that some of the images were created on a different flight which was between London and Norway! If I can find time to complete a few of these stretches on a short flight, so can you! Reap the benefits of practicing yoga in your seat during your travels and practice the stretches in this blog post â˜ș

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