Spotify’s ads have been a mixed bag lately—hate the “Milkshake” phone plan one, love to listen to the Calvin Klein girl who somehow manages to speak with only enough air to flutter her vocal chords—but one of them brings up a good point: You are dying! We all are, because modern live demands that we sit, always.
Nothing reminds one of one’s looming mortality-by-dormant-butt more acutely than the long-haul flight (with layovers!), during which you can practically feel a deep vein thrombosis forming as you direct deeply negative vibes at your seat-mate, who’s insisted on keeping his reading light on EVEN THOUGH HE’S TOO FAST ASLEEP TO ACCEPT THE MINIATURE PRETZELS. You *could* be that person who crowds the aisles, but in this post-9/11 world, better to limit your bathroom trips. That doesn’t mean staying completely put, though—here, five not-embarrassing stretches to do at 30,000 feet, brought to you by Valerie Knopik (PhD, E-RYT), Director of Research at Yoga Medicine, and FitFusion trainer Andrea Orbeck.
1. Lower-Leg Extensions with Ankle Circles
Start with both feet flat on the floor. Lift your right foot off and extend the knee, reaching the right lower leg forward as far as your space allows. [Editor’s note: HAHAHAHAHA. But at least these celebrities know the hardship.] With your leg extended, flex and point the foot several times, then circle the ankle, both clockwise and counterclockwise. If you have the space, gently hug the right knee into your chest, clasping the hands around the shin, about 1–2 inches below the knee. Place the right foot back on the floor. Repeat with the left leg.
2. Figure-4 Stretch
Seated tall, place one heel across the opposite knee and push down on the bent knee. This will stretch the glute, which is a large muscle that tends to become very sedated when you’ve been seated for long periods of time.
3. Alternating Knee Pull-ins
Can be done seated, but standing will encourage more circulation. Hug your knee to your chest with both hands until you feel a stretch in the glutes and hamstrings. Alternate each side at least five times.
4. Quadricep Stretch
While you’re waiting in line for the lavatory/when everybody else is passed out because you’re weird like that, stretch your quads and hip flexors. Standing against a wall, bend one knee and pull the heel into the glutes. Hold for at least 20 seconds, alternating legs several times.
5. Foot Pumps
Start with both feet flat on the floor. Keeping your toes and the ball of the foot on the floor, lift your right heel. Then lower the right heel so the foot is flat again. Keeping the right heel and the ball of the right foot on the floor, lift all the toes. Repeat with the left foot. Continue for 5–10 repetitions.
Valerie Knopik is a Senior Research Scientist, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, and E-RYT in Providence, Rhode Island. Formally trained in classical ballet, as well as a former runner, Valerie has always been a believer in staying active but yoga is the perfect marriage of her work in mental health & her love of movement & anatomy.