Travel Yoga (November 2010)

We are rapidly approaching THAT time of year. No, not the time of presents, holiday parties, and general indulgence- although that too is coming. I am referring to the TRAVEL time of year. Whether you are flying home to see family, driving to the mountains for snow sports, or taking a vacation somewhere tropical, winter in America often involves some amount of sitting on buses, trains, planes, or in cars. On a recent visit to see my family I remembered just how sitting on planes and buses for an extended period of time made my body feel and I didn’t like it- neck kinks, shoulder tension, back pain.  Let’s face it, how many of us can sit truly comfortably in an airplane seat?

So what to do? Try out some layover yoga. 

   (It could also be rest stop or mid-drive yoga if you choose.)

Of course you can stick to the standard neck and ankle rolls, but here are a few more options for those brave enough to look a little (or more than a little) ridiculous in terminals and on roadsides. 

Side Body Stretch:

- Relieve body stiffness from not moving for ours on a plane. Opens the sides of the lungs and allows breath more freedom.  

Ground into feet feeling all four corners of the foot. Arms overhead in line with ears encircle left wrist with fingers of opposite hand. Inhale to extend upward and exhale stretch to the right maintaining weight in the left foot and lifting through both left and right side bodies. Continue to inhale to extend upward and exhale to deepen the stretch.

Repeat to opposite side and as many times as you like. 

Seated Spinal Flexion and Extension (Seated Cat/Cow):

- Revives the spine after long hours sitting in one position, opens the chest, and brings shoulder blades back to neutral position.

Sitting or standing in any available chair or floor space (if in a chair press the feet firmly into the floor), take a few rounds of inhales and exhales to ground and feel your sitz bones sitting tall with your hands resting gently on the thighs. On an exhale round the spine pulling the belly back and curling the chin toward chest. Let the inhale raise you tilting pelvis forward, opening and lifting the chest, sending shoulders back, throat opens, and face tilts toward the ceiling. Exhale and inhale continue in this manner closing inward on the exhale and expanding open on the inhale. 

Hip Circles (or squares) and Bear Twists:

- Open the hips and give space to the core of the body after too much stillness. 

Stand with feet firmly planted outer hip width apart and hands on hips. Move the hips in the shape of a square being sure to move into all four corners and in each direction. Keep a slight bend in the knees. As you move more fluidly through this movement let it become a circle. Repeating and gently massaging any juicy areas of the stretch.  

Arms rest loosely to the sides of the body for bear twist. Shift the weight to the balls of the feet and allow heels to come up as you twist. With control swing arms around body allowing the torso to follow.  Letting the heels come up protects the knees. Repeat with fluidity at whatever speed feels best while maintaining some control and core strength to not over-twist through the sensitive SI joint.

Standing Forward Fold:

- Stretches the entire back body and allows a fresh flush of blood to the legs. Having head below legs can also be very refreshing. 

While not necessary, it can be nice to find a little wall space to do this pose so that you don’t feel like you are exposing yourself to all of your new holiday traveling friends. Stand with feet either hip distance apart or big toes touching. Inhale your arms up overhead and on the exhale arms swan dive or come through prayer position, hinge at the hips and bend forward. Remember that the abdomen stays engaged as you fold to help stabilize the lower back. Keep the knees deeply bent for the first few and as you feel more warmed up try straightening the legs. Inhale pressing through the feet and with a flat back come halfway up. Hands can be at the knees, shin, or floor. Exhale to release down to the floor again. To come up, inhale and round the spine rising one vertebrae at a time. Repeat to continue the back body stretch. 

Try these during a long travel day and hopefully arrive at your destination feeling more rejuvenated and less drained than usual. Remember to get plenty of rest, good food, and water on your journey. Bring a water bottle to fill once you go through security while flying to reduce use of disposable plastic water bottles. Consider bringing a homemade sandwich or some sliced veggies to tide you over instead of eating greasy, calorie high rest stop and airport foods- just remember items like yogurt don’t make it through security! On that note, keep in mind that travel can be a great time to step out of your comfort zone, break some of you own rules, and take a hiatus from our often high paced lifestyles. So give yourself permission to have some fun and enjoy wherever your travels might take you!