Thursday, October 30, 2014

Striking a Pose In Midair

English: Vrksasana, the tree position, a Yoga ...
English: Vrksasana, the tree position, a Yoga posture. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I don't do yoga, but this gives me an idea of how I can do exercises while in mid-air...


Fliers nowadays expect to walk off planes with stiff hips and strained backs, thanks to narrow airplane seats with little legroom. Even top yoga instructors who can fold their bodies like origami say they abhor airplane seats. So how do you emerge from a plane without feeling like Quasimodo?

Cyndi Lee, the founder of the Om Yoga brand in New York, is among the most flexible frequent fliers. She shared some airplane friendly poses that can be done in a seat or in the aisle. Many of the poses can be performed by yoga novices; others are for seasoned yogis – or those who dare to try a tree pose at 9,000 meters.

“A lot of what you’re doing with these stretches is just increasing the circulation,” said Ms. Lee, explaining that fluids tend to pool in lower regions, making fliers “feel sluggish and thick.”

To improve circulation through your lower back on long flights, be sure to twist every so often. While in your seat, plant your feet on the floor and twists to the right. Always include your head and neck in the twist. Switch sides.

If you have enough room and flexibility, from your seat you can also try ankle-to-knee (with one leg) pose, which is a complicated way of saying place your ankle on top of the opposite knee. To deepen the stretch, lean forward a little and place your forearms on top of your legs. Then switch legs. To improve circulation while in that position, flex and point your raised foot, and squeeze and spread your toes. Mind the drinks cart.

Now, on to your upper back. The hug can be done sitting or standing. Just wrap your arms around yourself and squeeze, aiming to touch your shoulder blades with your fingertips. From there you can stretch your neck by pressing your right ear to your right shoulder; repeat on the other side.

In the space near the lavatory, you can counteract rounded shoulders and relieve a tight upper back with a shoulder stretch. Reach behind you with both arms outstretched until your hands meet, then interlace your fingers, and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Look up and lift your chest. Depending on your level of comfort, you can lift your arms up and away from your back a bit.

Other experts offered similar advice. Alexandria Crow, a yoga instructor and teacher trainer at Yoga Works in Santa Monica, California, suggest putting your palms on either side of the aisle wall near the bathroom and leaning forward, as if stretching your chest through an open doorway.

Even simply hanging forward from the waist – folding at the hips and grabbing each elbow with the opposite hand – can make you feel better, she said.

To prevent swollen ankles, she puts her feet on the bulkhead wall, the back of the seat in front of her or the back edge of the armrest in front of her. That may be good for your ankles, though not necessarily for your relationship with fellow passengers.

For regular yoga practitioners, “tree pose is a no-brainer,” Ms. Lee said, referring to the standing pose in which you place the sole of one foot against the inner thigh of your other leg and raise your arms to your chest or over your head. This pose can open up tight hips and relieve lower back pain – a small price to pay the possible eyebrow raise from another passenger.

“I do these things and nobody even cares,” Ms. Lee said. “In fact, I think some people are thinking, ‘That’s a good idea.’ ”

Don’t forget to breathe deeply, which will help you become calmer. Ms. Lee, the author of “May I Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Yoga and Changing My Mind,” practices sama vritti, equal breathing in and out. She inhales for a count of four, five or six, then exhales for the same amount of time.

She also recommends that fliers try lion pose: scrunching up your face and then, as you exhale, sticking out your tongue and looking up at the space between your eyebrows.

She noted that this is good for waking up and reminding you to breathe.

She added: “You can do that one in the bathroom.”

Taken from TODAY, Saturday Edition, June 1, 2013