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5 Stretches for a Long Plane Ride

by Julie PetersNovember 15, 2019
Columnists
Woman in airplane with hands behind head, eyes closed

David De Lossy/Getty Images

Contorted into a plane seat? Here are a few (discreet) stretches you can do to keep your blood flowing, calm your nervous system, and release tightening muscles on a long plane ride.

Sitting for a long time on planes can be hard on our systems. Traveling is stressful enough on its own, but sitting in those rigid plane seats can make our shoulders tighten up, put a kink in our necks from falling asleep sitting up, and constrict our digestive systems and circulation (which can make us constipated)—not to mention the recycled air we have to breathe the whole time. Here are a few (discreet) stretches you can do on the plane to help keep your blood flowing, calm your nervous system, and release tightening muscles on a long plane ride. As always, check with your health practitioner before you try any of these exercises if you have any health concerns.

1. Seated Cat/Cow (while seated)

Sit up tall in your seat with your feet on the floor and put your hands on your knees. As you inhale, pull your chest forward and roll your shoulders onto your back. As you exhale, round your back and drop your chin into your chest. Repeat 5-10 times. This will help release the neck and upper back and get some movement into your digestive system. The breathing is also calming and cleansing. 

2. Simple Neck and Shoulder Release (while seated) 

Sit up tall with your hands in your lap and relax your shoulders. Roll your head forward and let your shoulders come forward a bit as well. Then roll your head to the right, and let your shoulders roll to the right a bit as well. Roll to the left, letting your shoulders follow. Keep the upper spine nice and relaxed, just following the weight of your head. Repeat at least four times, making sure you are even on the two sides. When you are finished, roll your head back up to center, and then roll your shoulders up to your ears, back, and down at least three times. This should help to release the neck and shoulders and help get the lymph flowing which is good for detoxifying. 

3. Quad Stretch (while waiting in line for the bathroom)

Hold the back of a plane seat (gently) with your right hand as you are standing in the aisle. Bend your left leg and hold onto your foot with your left hand. Pull the foot in toward your bum as you draw your tailbone down and lift your chest up. Hold for at least three breaths, and then switch sides. This will help release the front of your thighs and hip flexors, which is helpful for your lower back and your digestive system as well.

4. Side Stretch (in the aisle)

Turn to face the side of the plane while standing in the aisle. Reach your arms up, and hold your right wrist with your left hand. Bend your knees slightly, engage your core, and gently pull your right hand to the left, side stretching as far as you like. Hold for five breaths, and then repeat on the other side. This stretch releases the shoulders, opens up the breath, and again creates a bit of room in the digestive system.

5. Calf Stretch (in the aisle)

Take a large step forward with your right leg. Extend your left leg behind you with the foot pointing straight forward. Bend your right leg and rest your hands on your knee (or gently hold onto two plane seats). Stick your bum out and lift your chest and you straighten the left leg and try to press the heel down into the ground. If your heel lands too easily, step back a little farther so your heel has some space to stretch into. Hold for five breaths and then come out, giving your left foot a shake and a few circles in each direction. Repeat on the other side. On a plane, our blood tends to pool down in our lower extremities. Stretching out the calf and then shaking out the feet can help keep the circulation going and release tension in the lower legs.

Travel season is upon us! Try Julie’s 5 stretches for a long car ride.
 


Julie Peters

Julie Peters is a staff writer for Spirituality & Health. She is also a yoga teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) and co-owner of Ocean and Crow Yoga studio in Vancouver, BC, with her mom, Jane. She is the author of Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (SkyLight Paths 2016) and WANT: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media 2019). Learn more at www.jcpeters.ca. Follow her at @juliejcp.



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