Coming off nine flights in three weeks (the longest flight was a tad over 8 hours), I'm certain that these stretches kept me from making creaky old-people noises throughout the trip. And I managed to do them without much disruption to my seatmates' in-flight experiences.
To accompany your airplane asanas, (which I would do once an hour or so), be sure to guzzle tons o' water between bad movies, and focus on some breathing here and there throughout the flight. If you can, try to get up and take a short walk before or after your trip to the lavatory.
Bookmark this. In the next week, I'll see if I can't get some pics up to better illustrate these stretches. Meanwhile, try these the next time you hop a flight out of town, and let me know what you think. I suspect that these will work well at your desk, too!
This is the one where you extend your arms and fingertips above your head, one side at a time. If you have enough room, lean off to one side or the other, allowing for some opening in the side body. Let gravity do most of the work. If you don't have enough room, clasp your hands together and raise your palms to the ceiling, creating one very vertical line with your torso.
do the twist
Here is a simple, seated twist. Place right hand on opposite knee, your left hand behind you. Twist from your low back, and get in a deep breath or two. Repeat on the other side.
hover over hips
Place your ankle over opposite knee. Very gently, lean forward slowly from your hips until you feel a good stretch in glutes and hips. Know your limits - do not overdo this. Repeat on opposite side. I've also been able to replicate this stretch using the countertop in the lavatory (make sure to wipe it dry first!) If your hips are happy, your low back will follow suit.
be nice to your neck
The trick here is to allow gravity and time to do most of the work. Lean forward, with your gaze turned toward your chest. Relax jaw, chest, and arms. Next, take a deep breath as you allow your left ear drop towards left shoulder. Follow by letting your head drop back, looking up at the ceiling. Finally, take another deep breath as you shift right ear towards right shoulder. Do these gently and slowly. Repeat as needed.
shrug your shoulders
Taking your shoulder blades through a full ROM (range of motion) will alleviate discomfort in neck, shoulders and arms. Inhale and raise your shoulders up to your ears. Exhale and draw them down and back, as if attempting to get the tips of your shoulder blades to touch. Repeat as needed, in a natural, circular flow.