Yoga For Traveling
Summer is high-travel season. All the sitting in cramped seats, the stress of making connections and going through TSA, and the less-than-ideal food choices can really do a number on us.
Extra waiting in the airport is an excellent time to throw down everything from Down Dog to Handstand. But not everyone is comfortable with the public spectacle this creates. Nor do we always have the time or space to do a full yoga practice when we are traveling. If only all airports had yoga rooms!
Here are three yoga poses and a breath practice you can do next time you travel.
Ujjayi :: Deep Breathing
Rushing around an airport, waiting in long lines and being in foreign places can be unsettling. A few deep breaths can help you relax and settle into the experience; it’s also a boon if you’re afraid of flying.
For most people it’s easier to feel the movement of the breath with closed eyes. However, when traveling (or anytime you don’t feel safe) it might work better to simply soften your eyes while gazing at something calm and peaceful. Good choices could be: out a window, at a piece of art, or at a blank wall. Sit if you can, but it will work standing too.
- Lightly tone your lower belly, from pubic bone to navel.
- Relax your jaw and soften your eyes.
- Inhale, lift and broaden your chest and expand into your back ribs.
- Exhale and sigh out through your mouth —half way through the sigh, close your lips and send the air through your nose. (Keep breathing through your nose in this audible way throughout the rest of your practice.)
- Put emphasis on the exhale to bring a deeper sense of calm, but maintain an internal lift as much as possible.
- Take at least 10 deep breaths before relaxing your posture and returning your awareness outside your body.
Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana :: Extended Hand to Foot Pose (Bent Knee Variation)
This is my go-to pose for both the low back and too much time spent sitting. Bonus: it can be done reclining or standing.
- Stand up straight, with your feet parallel. (Or lie down and keep your legs active.)
- Bend your right knee towards your chest and hold it in your hands.
- Don’t lean back or let your hips pop forward as you pull your knee closer to your chest. (If you’re reclining, keep the back of your straight leg on the ground and your low back light rather than flat on the earth.)
- Take 3-5 deep breaths, then release your leg.
- Stand for a moment on both feet, then repeat with your left leg.
Indudalasana :: Standing Crescent Pose
Opening the sides of your body can help release the diaphragm muscle, making breathing easier. It also relieves tension in the neck and shoulders, as well as the low back.
- Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart and parallel and your hands on your hips.
- Reach your left arm overhead, as high as possible without shoulder pain.
- Lean your hips to the left and bend your torso to the right.
- Press down firmly into both feet and simultaneously lengthen up through the crown of your head.
- Hold the pose for about 30 seconds, then come back upright for a breath or two.
- Repeat on the other side.
Sucirandhrasana :: Eye of the Needle Hip Stretch (Seated Variation)
You know how traveling can make you feel uprooted and unplugged? Maybe your sleep gets really screwed up? Or you can’t go number two? Yogis call that being “ungrounded.”
Opening your hips helps you get grounded again while also relieving low back pain and stiffness. This is also excellent for the tired legs you get from a full day of traveling, or walking about a city you’ve never before visited. (And if you need help getting your morning constitution back on track, read this post).
- Sit near the front edge of a chair.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Flex your right foot and spread your toes to help protect your knee and put the stretch in your hip.
- If your knee is really high, say higher than your waist, your only job is to sit up straight and allow your knee and groin to relax down towards the floor.
- If your knee is pretty low, lengthen up through your spine, then hinge forward with a flat back over your legs (as pictured below).