A leisurely, uninterrupted stretch of time in the studio, with a class guided by a teacher may be the best-case scenario in your yoga practice, but there are times when it is not possible to get to the studio and roll out your mat. Coincidentally, these tend to be the times when we need yoga the most. Whether you are flying, on a road trip, or commuting, here are some easy ways to work yoga into your travels.
Twist: Sit with your legs crossed. Take a deep breathe and lengthen your spine, raising your left arm up over your head. Twist to place your left hand on your right knee and your right hand behind you. Every time you inhale, lengthen up through your spine; when you exhale, twist deeper, pulling your bellybutton to your spine. Hold for five breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Forward fold: This calms your nerves and helps reduce stress. Sit with your legs extended in front of you, toes flexed upwards. Press your hamstrings into the floor. Your legs should be very active in this pose. Inhale and lengthen the spine, then with an exhale, fold over your legs. Keep the legs active and hinge from the hips. Breathe deeply in this pose for at least five breaths.
Seated wide legged forward fold: As it sounds, open your legs as wide as you can, with toes flexed upwards and hamstrings grounding down. Inhale deeply and lengthen the spine, then exhale and fold forward. Resting your forehead on a block, chair, or blanket sends a calming signal to your central nervous system, combating stress and anxiety. This is a great pose for the end of the day.
Standing forward fold: With an inhale, raise your arms about your head. Exhale and fold slowly over your legs. Soften the knees enough to bring your chest all the way to your thighs. Breathe. Inhale, rise up halfway. Exhale, lower all the way down. Let your head hang. Shake your head no, then nod yes. On an inhale, push down into the ground with your feet and rise up, sweeping the arms above your head. Repeat, following your breath, five times.
Sun salutations: You may not want to do these in public, but once you get to your hotel room, sun salutations are an excellent way to energize the body and get the blood and oxygen flowing through your body. Complete five of the A version and five of the B version, and you will feel ready for anything.
High lunge: Stand with your hands on your hips. Take a deep breath, and on an exhale, with control, step your right foot forward. Do not let your right knee extend past your right ankle. Step a little farther forward if you need a deeper stretch. You can fold over your right thigh and support yourself with your hands to the ground, or you can engage your core and straighten your torso up over your legs. Breathe deeply and try to go as deep as you can to open up your hip flexors. Repeat on the other side. Do this whenever you have been seated for a long time.
Hero’s pose: Sit with your feet tucked under you. Inhale and lengthen your spine, and on an exhale, begin to lower yourself backwards so that you are lying with your back on the ground (or a support, such as a block, a blanket or a chair). This stretches the front of your thighs and encourages your shoulders to move back so your chest can open. After a long day with your hands on the wheel or hunched over a computer, this brings balance and openness to the front of the body. There are a number of ways to modify this pose if it is uncomfortable, from a block or a book underneath you to a rolled up towel under your ankles for support.
Bound angle pose: This pose is restorative and a hip opener. Lie on your back with arms stretched to the sides. Bend the knees to bring the soles of your feet together and relax your knees open. Breathe, and remain in this pose anywhere from one to five minutes. Come out of it slowly.
One of the most effective poses to release the stress of travel or commuting is portable, doesn’t require special clothes or props, and can be done anywhere at any time. The pose? Breathing. Remember to breathe deeply and fully, inhaling through the nose slowly, breathing all the way into the top of the body, and exhaling through the mouth, slowly, pushing your bellybutton towards the spine to release all of the air. A few of these deep breaths will work wonders for your energy level, patience, and stamina as you travel!
What are your favorite exercises to do while traveling?
Image by Giacomo Carena via Flickr