Planning a long-haul trip? Here are some quick stretches to incorporate into your next pit stop.
Follow these stretching tips from expert Ann Green, a retired competitive athlete and founder of Bliss Ann Green Yoga in Barrie, Ontario.
Before You Travel
Unwind before your trip with these stretches that trigger relaxation. As Green says, each pose activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your body’s cue to unwind.
Pose 1: The Warrior Series
Warrior 1: Extend your feet a little more than hip-width apart. Facing forward, step your left leg backwards and bend your right leg at a 90-degree angle. Standing upright and central, extend your arms above your head and look up. Hold for three to four inhales.
Pose 2: The Warrior Series
Warrior 2: From Warrior 1, shift your body sideways. Extend your arms sideways at the shoulders, with your head facing forward. Bend your right knee, while extending your left leg into one perfect line.
Benefits: “Aside from de-stressing, the Warrior series helps build stronger legs, increase circulation and relieve back pain,” says Green. “It even helps with digestion.”
Pose 3: Standing Straddle Forward
Widen your legs, clasping your hands behind your back. Bend from the waist, extending your head towards the ground and chest toward your legs. While bowing, raise your arms behind you. Exhale!
Benefits: “This is the perfect pose for airport layovers, or before a long car ride,” says Green. “It increases circulation and provides a new perspective of gravity—which relieves stress and helps your body cope with air pressure changes.”
Pose 4: Deep Squat
Clasp both hands together, holding them at the heart. Spread legs hip-width apart, feet turned outwards. Bend knees while slowly moving into a low, wide squat. Hold for three to four breaths.
For a seated version, sit with legs wide, fold hands at heart, and lean forward so that your elbows touch your upper thighs.
Benefits: “This pose helps relieve the strain from keeping your hips and legs sustained in one position while driving,” says Green. “It also gives your pelvic floor a break, and aids with digestion and balance.”
During Your Travels
Give your body a mini-stretch! These poses release tension in the neck, arms, legs and back, which often flares up during long journeys.
Pose 5: Standing Eagle Arm Pose
Try this stretch while pumping gas. Knees slightly bent, cross your right leg over your left and hug your arm to your opposite shoulder. Repeat on other side.
Tip: Try this pose sitting down: cross your left leg over your right leg and fold your arms in front of your face. Then, slightly bend your head and neck forward. Repeat on the opposite side.
Benefits: “These poses gently release the muscles that are constantly being vibrated while travelling,” says Green.
Pose 6: Table Top or Seated Turtle Shell (Flexion) to Turtle Neck (Extension)
Try this stretch seated at a rest stop. It’s a fluid motion of arching your spine inward (turtle shell) to an extended position (turtle neck). Gently tuck your chin toward your chest, while curving your belly inwards. Hold, and tilt your pelvis back, opening up your body. Then, shift your shoulders down and back, while looking up toward the sky.
Benefits: “This pose helps with back pain, and relieves tension in your neck,” says Green. “It also re-establishes flexibility in the spine and helps with digestion.”
Pose 7: Triangle
Stand in a wide stance, using your back leg as a support, and then bend your body toward your supporting leg. Drop your arm towards the rooted leg, while raising the other. Look up at your raised hand, and hold for three to five deep breaths.
Benefits:“This will open up your ribs and chest, which are restrained while travelling,” says Green. “It relieves tension in the spine, neck, chest and arms.” Also perfect for after your travels to encourage movement in the shoulders, spine, legs and hips—before you crash on the couch.