The hustle and bustle of airplane travel can cause even the best of us to forget our most deeply ingrained exercise mantras. So if your "ohm" goes out the window as soon as the plane takes off, try some simple Pilates exercises en route. Bringing your awareness back to your body as you fly may help you arrive slightly less jet-lagged. If nothing else, it at least offers a distraction from airplane food!
This one works wonders when trying to stretch out your back in those upright seats.
To start, sit as tall as possible with your shoulders away from your ears, drawing your stomach up and in. Connect your lower spine to the seat, then connect your middle spine to the seat, then your upper spine, until your whole back is lengthened flat against the seat.
Inhale, then exhale to release back to your naturally curved sitting position. Repeat 10 times, or until the flight attendant comes by with the next round of drinks.
2. Chin Tilt
Easily mistaken for nodding your head yes, these chin tilts can release some serious travel stress.
Keeping shoulders pressed away from your ears, gently drop your chin toward your chest as if squeezing an orange. Feel the stretch all the way down your neck and back.
3. Toe Taps
Tuck your carry-on items beneath your seat so your feet have a few inches to maneuver. These can even be done with your seat belt fastened.
Sit upright with both feet on the floor and draw your stomach toward your spine. Gently pick up one knee, lifting it at a 90-degree angle, keeping the other leg flat on the floor. Put the first leg down, then alternate and pick up the other leg. Repeat 10 or 20 times. Your core will engage whether your realize it or not. (It's kind of like marching in place sitting down.)
4. The Sitting Hundred
This one requires a bit more imagination, as the arms will stay still, unlike the traditional version of the Pilates hundred.
Engage your core and pick both feet up off the floor just a few inches. Keep the knees and ankles together with the knees bent, suspended in the air and begin your core breathing.
Inhale for five counts, then exhale bringing your stomach towards your spine for five counts, and repeat that breathing pattern 10 times until you reach 100. Keep your whole body still and engage your core while you breathe.
5. Calf Stretches
These are especially helpful on long-haul flights.
Standing with your feet parallel, take one foot back behind the other so the back knee is straight and the front knee is slightly bent. Keep the back knee straight and lift the back heel, then lower it, really sinking the back heel down so you can feel the calf and Achilles tendon stretching.
Alternate legs and repeat as many times as you can on each leg. The last time I tried these the people around me standing at the back of the plane surreptitiously followed along, so watch out, you might start a trend!
These can be useful when standing in line, or while waiting to stow your baggage in the overhead locker.
Stand up straight and draw your stomach toward your spine. Separate your feet slightly if your fellow passengers aren't crowding you too much and point your toes forward. Gently bend your knees over your toes, then straighten. Rise up onto the balls of your feet then lower your heels back down. Repeat 10 or 20 times. This looks like you are trying to find your seat, but you are really giving your lower legs a great workout.