Try Airplane Yoga and Simple Stretches to Alleviate Travel Pains

Do you have a long flight or drive ahead? Sitting still for a long time can be difficult enough, but it can also lead to physical discomfort and pain in your muscles and joints, a risk for blood clots from poor circulation, or anxiety. Simple stretches and airplane yoga moves could prevent or relieve these conditions.

Certain conditions can be more serious than others. For instance, "economy class syndrome" refers to deep vein thrombosis that occurs during long flights, per a 2007 study published in the European Journal of Emergency Medicine. But even minor discomfort can become unbearable after sitting in a restricted position for four or more hours.

Try these airplane yoga moves and other tips to keep your body both safe and comfortable on your next long journey.

In-Flight Exercise

Yoga poses can alleviate discomfort, lower the risk of blood clots, and reduce anxiety during travel. Many of these poses can be performed in your seat, and you can perform others in the aisle or in roomier areas, such as the back of the plane.

  • Easy Pose: This is an anchored pose that encourages anxiety-relieving deep breathing. Cross your shins, widen your knees, and slip each foot beneath the opposite knee as you fold your legs in toward your torso. Then either stack your hands in your lap, palms up, or lay your hands on your knees, palms down.
  • Breath Balancing Pose: This pose is said to foster emotional release. On the edge of your seat, keep your spine upright and shoulders back. Rest your hands on top of your thighs, inhale, stretch your head back gently, and exhale.
  • Cat Cow Pose: This yoga pose increases spine flexibility. On the edge of your seat, align your feet with your hips. With your hands on top of your thighs, inhale and roll your shoulders to arch your chest up and out.
  • Neck Rolls: This is another move to help relieve tension in your shoulders.

Whenever the "fasten seat belt" sign is off, stroll the aisle to stretch your legs and back, and boost circulation. According to Women's Health, stretching before and after extended flights, drives, or periods of sitting can also provide relief.

Other Remedies for Restricted Spaces

Besides movement, these tips can also coax your body through extended sitting:

  • Stay hydrated. Hydration is key for circulation and muscle health. But on long flights, drinking water -- rather than diuretics like alcohol, tea, or coffee -- is even more important, as cabin pressure can dehydrate your body, according to the Aerospace Medical Association.
  • Wear loose clothing. One exception is to wear compression stockings, which prevent excess blood from staying in the leg veins, according to the American Physical Therapy Association.
  • Don't cross your legs. This restricts blood flow to your lower extremities, which can increase your risk for blood clots.
  • Use pillows or inflatable rings to support your neck and back. This can reduce stiffness and pain, especially while you sleep.
  • Recline when possible. Recline as much as your seat permits. The British Chiropractic Association recommends leaning back at a 135-degree angle to alleviate pressure from the spinal discs.
  • Avoid storing luggage under the seat or at your feet. Stowing luggage elsewhere gives your legs more room to regularly stretch out.

Traveling can be a pain in more ways than one. On your next cross-country road trip or international business flight, use these remedies to make your experience more comfortable and better for your body.

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