Sunday, October 08, 2006

Planes, Train and Automobiles

This weekend, Jim, Eamonn and I took a trip to the Illinois Railway Museum. Trains are very big at our house right now, and one of my students who volunteers at the museum thought E would enjoy seeing and riding on the real thing. As we clattered along the track in one of the interurban cars, I wondered what travel in one of these things would have been like in the 1930s. The bench seats were just a little bit more comfortable than a school bus’ and the windows were huge—nice for the view, but all kinds of grit would fly in in the summer. I suspect you would be very stiff and dirty after about 2 hours.

When travelling nowadays, while you won’t get a face full of soot, being stiff and cramped in close seating hasn’t changed much. So, I’ve put together a (mostly) seated practice that you can do to get the blood flowing whether you are on the move or are stuck at a desk all day. It doesn’t take much to reenergize the muscles and realign the spine, you just have to make a conscious effort to do so every hour. And, if boarding restrictions continue--no Cheez Whiz, by the way--stretching may be the only thing you can do on the plane beside watch last month’s movies!

Seated Stretches

Sitting Tall- If you don’t have room to sit cross-legged, scoot to the end of your chair so you can rest evenly on the sit bones and lift up with the top of the head. Lengthen the spine and line the shoulders up with the hips. Breathe for awhile in this aligned position.

Seated Dandasana (Staff pose)- In this variation on a forward bend, stretch your legs out so that the feet are flexed and you’re gently pressing the backs of the legs towards the floor. Make sure you don’t lock your knees—slightly bend them, if necessary. Keep the spine long and the chest lifted and fold forward from the hip crease. As you tip the pelvis towards the thighs, notice the opening in the backs of the legs.

Hastasana (Overhead arm stretch)- Come back to your seated position and stretch your clasped fingers towards the luggage bin (be careful not to hit the attendant button). Turn the palms up, press the shoulders down and lengthen the neck. Then, slightly bend the elbows, draw the palms farther back and try to straighten the arms again. Notice the deep rotation in the shoulder joints.

Gomukhasana (arms) (Cow’s head pose)- Release your arms down to the side, then bend the right arm overhead and reach up in back with the left hand and try to interlock your fingers. If the hands don’t reach, try and take hold of the back of your chair so you can anchor the pose. Stretch the elbows away from each other and slightly towards the center. Repeat on the other side.

Seated Twist- Keep the feet planted firmly and the hips stationary as you exhale and start to twist the torso towards the right. Use your hands on your legs or armrest to help deepen the twist. Slowly rotate the spine, starting with the lower back, then rib cage and finally shoulders and head so the twist moves from the least flexible part of the spine to the most flexible. Keep lengthening the neck and balancing the shoulders over the hips. Repeat on other side. You can use this pose to check out the offerings on the duty free cart or your seat mate’s reading material…

Trikonasana (Triangle)- If you have room, and can leave your seat, find a spot by the rear exit or near a galley to step into a quick triangle. The extension of the arms and twist of the torso feel great after sitting and the stretch in the legs helps prevent cramps. Plus, if it’s a long flight, there may be a beverage station so you can grab some juice or water to stay hydrated. Be careful not to block the bathroom door. Bon Voyage!
©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the 'at your desk' inspiration. Just tried these while working at the computer (i.e.reading your blog) and especially liked the 'sitting tall' and twisting. For the staff pose, should my legs be streched out in the air or still touching the floor?

Love the blog!

Brenda Plakans said...

Heels are on the floor, so you are at about a 110 (?) degree angle or so. It may help you keep your spine long as you fold forwards because you are more open at the hips.