I've spent my fair share of time on planes. From the age of 18, and for many years to follow, I toured the US, Caribbean and South America as a headlining singer.
I havn't toured in a few years now, but Mr. Charming and I adore Hawaii, and since you can't road trip your way to those beautiful islands, I still frequent the friendly skies.
The problem with long plane rides is the hours-long sitting sessions. It's not healthy and it can be painful and uncomfortable at times.
Below are some stretches and yoga moves you can do 35,000 miles above the earth.
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.
If you don't have your travel pillow, 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.
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.
Seated Cat and Cow
Usually this is done on your hands and knees, breathing in as you let your belly sway low while you gaze up (cow) then exhaling as you lift your bellybutton upward while looking between your legs (cat). However, this can be modified to a seated position, using the same abdominal motion.
These are good for increasing the circulation in your legs, as well as burning up the core. Grab or push down on the side of your seat for stability and simply lift your thighs up while pressing your navel back into the seat. This can be done one leg at a time for a lighter workout or warm-up, or use both to feel the burn. Holding it for a few breaths also ups the ante.
Ankle Rolls and Flexes
Start with rolls, moving in a circular motion a few times clockwise then a few counter-clockwise. Afterwards, use that gained flexibility to push your ankles even further, pointing the toes out as far you can then pulling them back in towards the shins for a few breaths. I also like to do a variation of this with my hands and wrists.
Seated Spinal Twists
Move to the edge of the seat, cross your right leg over the left, and use the left hand (on your right knee) to help you twist. Breathe in and lengthen your torso, then spin your right shoulder back and the left forward. Hold it a breath or two and repeat on the other side.
One elbow rests in the inside of the other while the higher forearm wraps around the other until the palms are touching. It looks (perhaps reads) super complex but is actually simple and effective.
Of course, one of the best things to do when traveling long distances is to sleep, hoping the time ticks away. The problem, however, is when you wake up and feel what has happened to your neck during that slumber. Neck rolls are great for both stretching the neck muscles, as well as relaxing. Remember to rotate slowly, inhale moving back and exhale when coming forward. Doing it consciously definitely enhances the effect.