Picture the scene: you’re wedged into a cramped economy seat, knees brushing the back of the seat in front, you can feel a dull ache slowly building alongside an early onset of the dreaded “dead leg”, yet unbelievably you’re only two hours into a 12-hour flight. What to do?
With sitting tagged as the “new smoking” there’s likely few places for your health than a tiny economy seat. But there is a saviour in sight. Hello, yoga!
While you might assume that this ancient practice is only confined to the realms of inner-city studios populated by Lululemon-clad, Kombucha-drinking hipsters, in reality, yoga can be done pretty much anytime, anywhere — even at 35,000 feet. And the health benefits are numerous; from helping to avoid deep vein thrombosis, to curbing anxiety and to minimising any potential soreness. Certainly more and more airlines are getting in on the yoga act; Cathay Pacific even released an in-flight video series dedicated to yoga and meditation a few months ago.
Whether pre, post or during the flight, whether you’re a yoga virgin or an absolute pro; we’ve consulted with Duncan Peak, the founder of Australia’s biggest yoga school, Power Living, to get his top tips, so anyone can asana in the aisle.
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HIT THE MAT BEFORE TAKEOFF
To stave off aches and pains during the flight, Duncan suggests hitting the mat before you even think about heading to the airport.
“It’s important we move before, as well as during a flight,” says Duncan. “Because an economy seat means a lot of cramped sitting and slumping for the lower back, it’s important to focus on stretching out the hip flexors (muscles on front of hip) and to strengthen the lower back muscles before the flight to help counter this. Try to fit in a yoga class the day of, or before, flying.”
ASANA IN THE AISLE
There’s a risk when flying long distance — generally more than four hours — of blood clots forming, so moving while on board is essential.
“It’s important to get up every two to three hours to help circulation,” Duncan says. “Therefore, if you’re able to get up, make sure to walk the aisle and do a combination of stretches. Straighten the legs as best as you can, pull the belly in, round the back and roll forwards, bend the arms behind the back on each side and hold for a few minutes.”
Even if you can’t bring yourself to make shapes in the aisle, there’s some flight-friendly yoga poses that you can easily do from your seat.
“Seated twists are a great way to stretch the spine,” says Duncan. “Sit up tall and hold the sides of your seat, twisting to your right or left and holding for five breaths and then switching sides. Stretch the neck from side to side, interlace fingers and stretch arms up and forward — if space allows — and then get your blood flowing by rolling and flexing the ankles.”
But it’s not just about moving the body, paying attention to the breath can also calm the mind. Deep breathing has been shown to reduce stress and alleviate tension, helping to reduce any stress and ease anxiety.
“One of the best things you can do while sitting is big belly breaths and long deep breaths,” says Duncan. “Breath helps the circulation, gets us focused and ready for that holiday or business at the end of the flight.”
Once you’ve passed through customs and are ensconced in your hotel, don’t be tempted to take a nap. To help ground and energise post-flight, Duncan recommends an inversion: “I always like to take an inversion, which could be legs up in the air or a shoulder stand or headstand.”
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Originally published as This flying hack fixes economy legroom problem