We live in a world where traveling is necessary. Whether it’s the 30-minute commute to work, a long flight to visit family, or the work of a project manager flying from New York to Los Angeles twice a week, it’s safe to say that most of us spend a lot of time sitting down for a pro-longed period of time, which makes this post relevant for almost everybody. In this blog, I’ll describe 6 poses that you can do before you get in the car for a long drive or board a plane for a flight to help counter the negative effects of sitting down for a prolonged period of time.
Note: There is no law that I am aware of that prohibits you from doing yoga in the aisle on an airplane while the fastened seatbelt sign is not lit. I do it all the time.
When sitting, you are unable to do a number of things, but the two things that you are most unable to do are (1) lunges and (2) backbends. Therefore, this list will draw heavily from the aforementioned categories. We will also include some twists and hamstring stretches as well. Keep in mind that even while sitting you are still able to work your core, your hip flexors, and even your pushing muscles, so we’ll focus on the other movements that are difficult or downright impossible to do while sitting.
1) Lunge with backbend
You can do this lunge with the knee down or lifted, depending on how intense or active you want the stretch to be. Knee lifted means that you are more active in this pose, getting a deeper hip flexor stretch, AND keeping your pants / knee from touching the ground (bonus for being outside or in a dirty airport).
Pyramid is a nice counter to the lunge with backbend, and also focuses on rounding the spine, something that you won’t be able to do to great extent while sitting down in a car or plane.
3) Revolved Pyramid
Adding in revolved pyramid is a great way to add an IT band stretch to pyramid. It also adds a twist element, which is something your spine will enjoy before it is immobile for hours at a time.
Good old plank. Get in some upper body work before you sit down. Your arms aren’t going to be doing much. The main reason for having plank in here is as a transition for the next pose, which is…
Updog is THE full-body back bend exercise. It is also a pose that stretches BOTH hip flexors at once, which means that you are getting lunges and backbends to the maximum; the two types of movements that this mini-sequence focuses on.
Downdog is a good counter for the backbend, and also a nice, full-body exercise to lengthen your lower back, your hamstrings, and the rest of the posterior side of your body. Also a good opportunity to stretch your calves and get your shoulders active before sitting down (your calves tend to tighten up in a seated position).
7) Warrior 1 with goalpost arms / eagle arms
Warrior 1 is another lunge that we will include in this sequence to further open up the hip flexors, straighten the spine, engage the core, and focus on having perfect posture (before you sit down and ruin it). Try adding in goal post arms and eagle arms so that you are getting your arms and shoulders some bonus strength and flexibility training. (Keep in mind that eagle arms are perfectly accessible while seated, unless there is a child or dog on your lap.)
Lizard is the deepest hip flexor stretch of this sequence, and you’ll need it for when your hip flexors are scrunched up while you sit for hours. The cool thing about lizard is that you can add all sorts of variations. You can (1) rest on the outside of your front foot to stretch the inner hip, (2) reach back and grab the back foot with the opposite hand for an uber-deep hip flexor stretch, (3) relax on to your forearms for a more relaxed variation of lizard, or (4) lunge as upright as possible for a nice hip flexor stretch and core exercise.
Try em’ out! This sequence doesn’t have to take any longer than 5 minutes if you don’t want it to. But then again, make it last as long as possible. Nobody likes being trapped in a car or airplane with no freedom to move. Besides, if you work out hard enough, you might just fall asleep and wake up when the trip is over! (Unless you’re driving, flying the aircraft, or watching a child.)
The photos above are from the Yoga Basics for Men: An Intro to Man Flow Yoga (2nd edition) eBook.