As the busy summer travel season approaches, many of us will find ourselves on planes. The journey may be long or short, but the effects on the body are similar: airline flight slows the body’s metabolism dramatically, makes digestion sluggish, and can cause legs to swell due to decreased blood circulation. The recycled air, cramped space, and time change, if any, contribute to both mental and physical fatigue.
Most airline magazines now carry a section on in-flight stretches and exercises to make you feel a bit better while tethered to your seat, but equally important is what you do after the flight lands. Once you reach your destination, try the following yoga pose to restore your sense of wellbeing, return your body to its pre-flight state, and help you adjust to any jetlag.
Viparita Karani, also known as “legs up the wall,” is a fabulous pose for relieving fatigue and stress, and has special benefits for bodies after flying. This simple supported position helps to rejuvenate your legs by supporting them in an inverted position, while your chest is gently opened in a supported backbend (see image). Viparita karani relieves fatigue, ankle and leg swelling, lower back stiffness, aids digestion, and nourishes the heart while calming the nervous system. What better landing position?
The pose: Remove your shoes. Find some pillows or blankets to support your lower back. The height should be sufficient to elevate your torso so that your shoulders just rest on the ground and your chest opens comfortably. Position yourself on the floor with your legs up the wall with your buttocks in the space between the support under your lower back and the wall. Rest your arms, palms up, at your side. If you are stiff and feel uncomfortable, move your support farther away from the wall so just your heels rest on the wall and your thighs are less than perpendicular to the floor.
Once in position relax completely. Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Release any remaining tension from your travels as you remain in the pose 15 minutes, or as long as is comfortable for your body. Come out of the pose slowly by bending your knees and then rolling to the side. Follow with a few minutes lying flat on the floor, with a pillow or blanket under your head. Then enjoy your vacation!
Rebecca Taggart is a San Francisco yoga instructor.