Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Travel Yoga: Yoga for Planes, Trains and Automobiles

This week one of my close loved ones developed a blood clot during a recent plane trip to Europe. He was feeling pain in his calf and a shortness of breath for a few weeks after his flight home. Fortunately, he visited the doctor and was diagnosed with a blood clot before anything serious happened. However, despite the mild symptoms there was a very scary turn of events - part of the blood clot had broken off and traveled into his lung developing a pulmonary embolism. He is now on blood thinners and back to normal life.

For those of you traveling for extended periods of time this holiday season be extra aware of how long you're sitting. Being on a plane for an extended period of time can be very uncomfortable for our bodies and possibly even dangerous. The World Health Organization warns us that sitting on a plane for more than four hours doubles your risk of developing a blood clot. Because of this hazard, you need to move around the cabin frequently to get your blood flowing as well as stay hydrated.

The following yoga poses are designed to get you moving and can be performed while traveling on a plane, train or automobile or in your office chair for that matter.

Seated Pigeon 
Plant your butt firmly in your seat and your feet firmly on the ground so your legs make a 90 degree angle. Lift up your right foot and place your right foot, ankle or lower calf onto your left knee or thigh - where you find it to be comfortable. Place your left hand on your ankle to stabilize it and place your right hand or forearm on your right knee. Inhale, puff your chest up and lengthen your spine. Exhale, lean forward. Inhale, lengthen. Exhale, release into the sensation. You will likely feel sensation in your right hip. Breath into it and feel. Take as long as you'd like in this pose. After the initial shock of sensation, it starts to feel very good. Once you're done come back up to seated and repeat on the opposite side.

Eagle Arms 
If you don't have your travel pillow for your next trip, this stretch will help relieve tension in your shoulders and neck. Wrap your right arm underneath your left so the left elbow rests in the right arm's elbow crease. Then work to touch your palms together. Your arms will be wrapped around one another. Inhale, lift your arms up and you'll feel sensation in your upper back and shoulders. Exhale, lower your arms down toward your stomach while still entwined and feel the sensation in the upper backbody. Hold where you feel the stretch and breath. When you're ready unwrap your arms and repeat on the other side.

Modified Seated-Triangle Twist
Place your left elbow on your left thigh and grab your right knee with your left hand. Inhale, and lengthen your spine and reach the crown of your head towards the front of the room. Exhale all your breath out as you sweep your right arm up towards the ceiling. Spiral your chest open to twist and gaze up towards your right hand. Take three deep breaths here. On your inhales lengthen and on your exhales allow the body to twist a little deeper. On the final breath exhale your right elbow to your right thigh and grab your left knee. Repeat on the other side. If the person in front of you has reclined their seat and you can't fit, do a seated twist without leaning forward.

Core Strengthening
It never hurts to strengthen our core, so let's do it while we're on the plane. With your body in an upright position, inhale, lengthen your spine and lift your arms up above your head. Draw your naval into your spine and breath. Release tension in your shoulder muscles as your reach up to the roof. Engage your legs and core. Feel your feet connected to the ground. Keep your chin slightly tucked in towards your chest. After a few deep breaths, exhale and release. Repeat a few times until you feel a healthy burn in your stomach muscles.

Forward Bend with Calf Stretch
From a regular seated position, inhale lengthen your spine then exhale fold out over your thighs. Feel a gentle stretch in your lower back and feel your hips release. Move your weight out of your toes and into the heels of your feet. Grab the toes of your feet or shoe and guide them towards your knees for a gentle stretch in your calf muscles. Enjoy a few rounds of deep inhales and exhales.

Stay Healthy and Breathe
Moving and stretching during a long flight will drastically reduce your risk of a blood clot. It gets your blood flowing through your body and prevents stagnation of the blood. Next time you're on a plane, get moving. Do some yoga!
 

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