I’ve settled into my flight to Paris, a book on my lap and thoughts of strolling along the banks of the Seine in my mind, planning my weekend. I dream of Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur; imagining myself wandering through the narrow streets filled with artists around the 19th century basilica.
As my thoughts now drift to the Latin Quarter and its quaint cafés, restaurants, antique shops and boutiques, a smile flashes across my face. All in all, my flight’s taking off nicely. Until I feel the consistent rhythm of the toddler behind me kicking my chair. Mom and Dad have already raised their hands in surrender. Is there anything I can do to find my happy place again?
Before I blow a gasket and inform the parents of their poor parenting skills, I take a deep breath and practice the “4-7-8” breathing.
This method was developed by a wellness practitioner, the Harvard-educated Dr. Andrew Weil, who studies meditation, breathing, and how it can be used to counteract stress. It is easy to do. You breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold it for seven seconds, and exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
This is good for more than just falling asleep though. When we are stressed, our endocrine system releases adrenaline through our adrenal glands. This elevates your heart rate and can make you feel jittery and unwell. Often, your breathing also becomes rapid and shallow.
By using this breathing method, you counteract the natural effects of adrenaline and your body is forced to slow down your heart rate. It simply doesn’t have a choice! When you begin, you may feel a tad uncomfortable.
I drift off to my happy place and when I wake up, fortunately the kid is soundly asleep and I am well rested. I look at my watch; there are still a couple of hours before landing so I decide to do a mini yoga practice. I look around and feel shy but psyche myself up by reminding myself of the benefits of yoga – in-flight yoga!
Sometimes sitting on a long-haul flight can lead to cramps and swollen ankles or cause a blood clot known as a deep vein thrombosis. Yoga helps you massage your internal organs, improve circulation and relieve the anxiety you may experience before and during your flight.
Benefits of In-flight Yoga
- Releases muscle tension
- Increases blood circulation
- Relaxes your mind
- Soothes the nervous system
- Decreases anxiety
- Can combat fatigue, correct balance, and release endorphins
- Freshens the mind to take on the activities after you land!
MY MINI IN-FLIGHT YOGA Practice
(Courtesy of my travel yoga manual by Charlotte Dodson)
Lengthen spine: Chair pose (Utkatasana)
Getting into the pose: On the edge of your seat, press your feet firmly onto the ground aligned with hips. Keep your spine upright.
Inhale to raise your arms, and exhale to fold your body halfway forward out in front of you. Keep your breath slow, feet pressing down, shoulders relaxed and chin tucked.
Benefit: This pose turns you inward to a calm and quiet place. It strengthens your back muscles and lengthens your spine.
Shoulder releasing: Eagle arms (Garudasana)
Getting into the pose: Stretch your arms straightforward, parallel to the floor, and spread your shoulder blades wide across your back.
Cross your right arm above your left, bending your elbows. Now snug the right elbow into the crook of the left, and raise your forearm.
The backs of your hands should face each other, until you press the right hand to the right and the left hand to the left, so they cross and the palms face each other.
The thumb of the right hand should pass in front of the little finger of the left. Now press the palms together and – as much as is possible for you –lift your elbows up and stretch the fingers toward the ceiling. Stay for 15-30 seconds, unwind, and then repeat with the arms reversed.
Benefit: This opens shoulder joints, increases circulation to all joints and improves digestion.
Energise and revitalise: Thigh stretch
Getting into the pose: Lift your right foot off the floor and bend your knee so your lower leg is behind your body. Carefully grasp your right ankle with your right hand and pull straight up until your heel is by your butt. Hold for 5-10 breaths before switching sides.
Benefit: Stretching your quadriceps.
Shoulder opening: Interlocked hands
Getting into the pose: Stand at the exit or aisle with your feet aligned to your hips. Roll your shoulders back as you slowly interlock your hands behind your back. Keep your chin tucked and back straight.
With your feet pressing firmly into the floor, press your fists down and away from your body. Breathe deeply and hold for 5-10 breaths before releasing.
Benefit: Creates openness into your shoulders, strengthens arms and keeps your upper body mobile.
Rejuvenate and calm: Wind relieving or wind removing pose (Modified Pawanmuktasana)
Getting into the pose: Sit up tall. Bring your feet to your sit bones. Wrap your arms around your knees and hug your knees into your chest. Inhale and exhale through your nostrils and hold the pose for one to three minutes.
Benefits: Regulates hydrochloric acid levels in the stomach. Improves and may cure conditions of constipation, flatulence and hyperacidity by massaging the internal organs. Relieves lower back pain. Improves flexibility of the hip joints. Firms and tones muscles of the abdominal wall, thighs and hips.
Feeling energized, I order a cup hot water infused with lemon. I could use the hydration and the Vitamin C as I cruise through memory lane with my perfect date, Paris! Cocktails at Hotel Costes, entrecôte at Cafe de Paris, crepes at any roadside creperie and I instantly feel a smile flash on my face.