It's been said that sitting is the new smoking, and if that's the case, then there's no worse place for your health than an airplane where you can be trapped in a seated position for seemingly hours on end. Frequent flyers and international travelers may do well to consider trying a few flight-friendly yoga poses to reverse some of the damaging effects of extended periods of sitting.
"The biggest benefit [of airplane yoga] is to avoid deep vein thrombosis, when you're sitting still for so long that your circulation basically coagulates," Bess Abrahams, co-author of "Airplane Yoga," a how-to guide for in-flight asanas, tells HuffPost Travel. "You want to keep moving. Yoga techniques are a great avenue to remind yourself to move and some of them have multiple benefits."
But it's not just about moving the body: Mindful movement, with attention to the breath and bodily sensations, can also calm the mind, helping to reduce stress and ease the anxiety of flying. Scroll through the list below for seven simple yoga poses recommended by Abrahams to try on your next flight or while waiting at the airport.
1. Seated Spinal Rolls.
This easy spine-stretching exercise can be done in your airplane seat or while sitting in a waiting area. Roll forward on the hips and let the chest puff out, and then rolling back on the pelvis, undulating the spine by moving forward and back. You can curl all the way up to the head, being careful not to snap the neck.
"That's a great reminder to move your spine, and then the yoga piece is adding on breathing in tandem with your movement," says Abrahams. "That can make it even more soothing."
2. Simple Seated Twist.
For this spine-stretching pose, sit up tall and grab the sides of your seat, twisting the torso to the right and the left, and holding for 10-20 seconds on each side.
"This works the chest, shoulders, and spine... twisting is really, really good," says Abrahams. "People tend to get constipated when they travel so this can help, too."
3. Thigh Lifts.
To strengthen and improve circulation in the legs, try taking one leg at a time and imagining that you're lifting the middle of the thigh up to the ceiling. Keep you back straight while you're doing this and pull your belly button back in your seat. You can also try it with both legs up in a tuck, holding the sides of your seat for support. The pose activates both the legs and the core, according to Abrahams.
4. Ankle Rolls.
Get your blood flowing by rolling the ankles in a circulation motion to both the right and the left several times while stretching the leg out slightly in front of you. You can also add a point-flex motion of the feet.
"You can make it more of a yoga pose by adding an overlay or breathing or just being aware," says Abrahams. "It's moving your body with purpose and awareness... And that's how it could help some people with anxiety. It slows you down, it gets you in your body, it eases your worries."
5. Modified Mountain Pose.
If you're able to stand up by your seat or in an empty area by the back of the plane, try a simple modification of the Mountain Pose that can provide a satisfying full-body stretch. Stand up tall and bring the feet together pointing forward, and raise the arms up above the head with the hands clasped together. Slowly raise the heels so that you're standing on the balls of the feet and hold for 10 seconds.
"When your heels come down and your arms come down, you've gotten a full-body stretch," says Abrahams.
6. Mini Lunges.
Try heading over to the bathroom area by the back of the plane to do a few mini-lunges, bending one leg and stepping forward with the whole body and then back with the legs together. Even a few repetitions (assuming there's not a line of people getting in your way) can help increase blood flow. Holding the lunge in a modified version of a Warrior I pose to fit the small space can also work the hips, legs and calves.
7. Watching The Exhale.
Feeling some flying jitters? Deep breathing has been shown to reduce stress and alleviate tension, so try this yogic breathing awareness exercise on your next stressful flight.
"For anxiety and jitters, one technique to prescribe for it is to watch your exhales," says Abrahams. "You don't change anything about your breath, but you just try to notice when you're exhaling. That's calming to your body because you're boosting your awareness."
Then, Abrahams suggests trying to lengthen your exhales slightly longer than your inhales to get soothe the body and mind. Namaste!
Tell us: Would you try any of these yoga poses on your next flight? Share your thoughts in the comments or tweet @HuffPostTravel.
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