One of the conundrums of airplane travel is our ability to be moved at great speeds across time zones while confined (in a seat) for much of the journey.
Whether you are in a spacious first-class seat or fold yourself into an economy perch, you are still likely to experience stiffness, compression in the spine, dehydration, a lack of circulation and the lethargy that arises from breathing recirculated air with up to 25-per-cent less oxygen than that found at sea level.
Yet it is the sitting that stresses our physiology.
“We’re not meant to sit for hours on end,” says frequent flying yogi Eoin Finn, who clocks 130,000 kilometres a year on his yoga-teaching travels. “Sitting for such long periods of time makes you feel lethargic and devoid of vitality.”
Immobility for long periods results in a lack of circulation, which can also cause deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that arises when blood flows sluggishly in the lower regions of the body and eventually clots. Pain and swelling in the legs is a symptom of DVT but the real danger occurs if the clots reach the brain or the lungs.
Finn believes yoga is an ideal method of countering the negative effects of travel, especially the inevitable lack of circulation and spinal compression that affects even this flexible flier.
“You know how good a shower makes you feel after a long trip? Well, yoga, even in small doses, during a trip can feel much, much better than a shower,” he says.
Yoga is ideal when travelling because through focused, intentional movement and breath, you increase your oxygen intake – ideal when your body is absorbing less oxygen than it normally does – calm your mind, decrease muscle tension and soothe the nervous system. Yoga also helps to increase circulation, lessening the risk of DVT.
Plus it’s portable.
“I do yoga before getting on a plane, in the waiting lounge, on board, by the exit row and even in my seat,” Finn says. “People often look at me and sometimes comment, ‘That’s so smart.’ Yet I don’t see them joining me.”
If you are seeking to banish soreness and stiffness as your frequent flying companions, the graphic above has some yoga poses that you can practise in the privacy of your own seat. Watch out for the drink trolley and breathe easily. After all, it is the journey that makes the destination.