Summer is here! We hope that an exotic trip (maybe to India or Southeast Asia with us!) is in your upcoming vacation plans. If you’re a frequent flier around the globe, you know how painful it can be when you finally unfurl your legs, your muscles stiff and achy after twelve or more hours in the air. Your neck probably has a crick in it because of the awkward angle in which you fell asleep.
Well, here is some good news for you: doing a few simple yoga stretches to keep your blood flowing can help you feel more refreshed when you finally reach your destination. No more awkward limping toward the baggage claim as you wait for the pins and needles in you buttocks and right leg to go away.
So let’s start from the head down and get the blood flowing, so you can make the most of your trip from the get-go!
Before you begin, make sure to take a few deep, cleansing breaths all the way into your belly so you are centered and relaxed. Place your feet flat on the floor.
1. Stretch your neck: This exercise has four movements. Start with your eyes looking straight forward (probably at the back of the seat in front of you). Breathe in and out completely. On your next breath in, look all the way to the left while keeping your shoulders relaxed down your back. Breathe out to look straight ahead again. As you breathe in again, look all the way to the right.
Breathe out to the center, and breathe in to look up at the ceiling. Exhale to the center and inhale your chin to your chest. This can be repeated as many times as you’d like!
2. Relax your shoulders: Breathe in and out completely, making sure your feet are still flat on the floor and your are sitting comfortably, but with a straight spine. On an inhale, squeeze your shoulders up to your ears as tightly as possible. Exhale completely, and relax your shoulders so they feel as if they are melting down your back. Repeat, and try to feel your muscles relax a little bit more with each breath cycle.
3. Eagle Arms: Cross your right arm under your left elbow (so the right elbow is cradling the left elbow). If you can, press your palms together. Looking straight ahead, lift your elbows slightly and pull them away from your chest. Breath deeply as you feel the stretch in your biceps an d upper back. Relax, and repeat with the left arm under the right.
4. The Twist: Breathe in and out completely. Place your feet flat on the floor. Inhale, and on an exhale, twist your body to the left while your right arm grasps your left thigh or arm rest. Inhale to the center, and exhale, repeating the twist on the right side (with your left hand grasping your right thigh or arm rest).
5. Seated Figure Four: This may be more difficult if you have long legs, but give it a try! With your left foot firmly planted on the ground, cross your right ankle over the top of your left knee. Inhale and exhale deeply while feeling the stretch in the inner and outer right thigh. Repeat on the left side.
6. Knees to the Chest: Hug both of your knees into your chest. Sit up on your tailbone and imagine that you are trying to touch the top of your head to the ceiling as you lengthen your spine. Relax your feet to the floor and repeat.
7. Savasana – Corpse Pose: Let your breath become even as you relax all of your muscles completely, letting go from your head to your toes. Allow yourself to sink deeply into the airplane seat. You don’t need to engage any muscles. Bon Voyage!
*An interesting fact about yoga is that these physical stretches were meant to condition ancient yogis bodies for hours of seated meditation.