The Best (simple) Yoga Poses to do on the Road
Contrary to popular belief, yoga is not just for the flexible and young. Yoga is inclusive to everyone, no matter age, size, gender, or physical ability. If you go deep into the philosophy, you will find that yoga is not really about the body at all. In fact, yoga is actually the practice of understanding the mind, where the physical practice is merely an accessory to this fundamental goal. So, as long as you have a mind and a will to practice, you can do yoga.
But, why should you?
Substantial research has shown that the yoga practice can bring great physical benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, improved flexibility, and reduced oxidative stress. However, if you are willing to go deeper and open your mind to the practice, science shows that yoga can bring you so much more than just the physical; it can heal your mind, nourish your soul, and bring you a deep connection with the world around you.
Why You Should Incorporate Yoga Poses on the Road
The dates, destinations, and company may change, but one thing that remains the same about travel is the toll it takes on the entire body. Whether on a plane, bus, train, or car, travel usually requires sitting for long periods of time. With sitting comes a whole range of issues like tight hip flexors, hunched backs, strained necks, and back pain. If we don't take the time to release this tension, it can build up in the body and cause all sorts of compensations that can eventually lead to injury. Luckily, yoga poses are a completely accessible tool to help ease this tension. It can help build strength in areas that have been strained and weak, while allowing tight areas to stretch and lengthen, thus creating a healthy balance in the body to function at its best.
Physical benefits aside, yoga poses can also provide an opportunity to step away from the hustle bustle of travel, stop, and just be present in the moment. By paying attention to our bodies as we move and breathe through different postures, yoga allows us to become more mindful of the present moment.
Mindfulness has been associated with all sorts of benefits, including a higher quality of life, better emotion regulation, and improved mental health. Pretty much, mindfulness just makes you a better person. Especially while traveling, when so many things are out of your control, mindfulness can do wonders to your experience.
Read more about how to cultivate mindfulness in your life.
How Can I Make Space For Yoga Poses While I Travel?
You can certainly book classes in studios wherever you go, watch YouTube yoga classes in your airbnb, hostel or hotel room, or even book a stay at a yoga retreat. But, if you have other travel plans in mind, and don't necessarily want to hash out the time to do yoga, that's all good too.
The great thing about yoga is how little time, space, or equipment you need to do it. Basically, if you can spare a few minutes, you can do yoga poses, even without a yoga mat. You can incorporate it in your morning and nighttime routine, during bathroom breaks and rest stops, while waiting in line at airports and bus stops, and you can even sneak in a pose or two while in the car.
What Are Some Car Yoga Poses I Could Do In the Car (if I’m a passenger)
Sitting in the same position for too long can put a lot of strain on your muscles and leave your body positioned in permanent, unhealthy postures. That's why it's often recommended to move from stationary positions every hour or so.
Obviously, on a road trip, it's not realistic to expect the driver to pull over every hour for a stretch, but that doesn't mean you are completely doomed to discomfort. Pop into these poses any time you're feeling restless, bored, or just need a little TLC. Make sure to breathe deeply through all these poses.
1. Upavistha Bitilasana Marjaryasana (Seated Cat and Cow Pose)
This pose is excellent for bringing mobility to your spine.
Bring your arms to the side and bend your elbows to 90 degrees. On an inhale, press your chest through while trying to bring your shoulder blades together. On an exhale, tuck your chin, round your back, pull your shoulder blades away from the spine, and touch elbows together. Do a few rounds of these while following your breath.
2. Ardha Matsyendrasana Variation (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose Variation)
Twists are excellent for neutralizing the spine and massaging the organs. They can feel really good when you're feeling stagnant or stiff.
Cross your right leg over your left. Place your left hand on your right knee. Then, while twisting from the torso, grab or hook your right arm around the headrest. Inhale to lengthen the spine. Exhale to twist from the navel. Then switch sides.
3. Neck Circles
These are great if you tend to have a hunched posture while sitting.
Move your head in slow circles in one direction and then the next. Synchronize your breath with this movement in whatever way makes most sense to you.
3. Ardha Gomukhasana Variation (Half Cow Face Arms)
This pose can help open up the shoulders and counter the common hunched posture we often assume when sitting for long periods of time.
Bring your left arm up and bend at the elbow. Place your left hand, palm facing down, on your back. Use your right hand to gently press into your left elbow. Press your head into your left tricep. If you are open in your shoulders, you can try the full variation of this pose, by bringing your right arm down, rotating it inwards, and then bending the right elbow to try to clasp the right hand with the left. Only do this full variation if you have open shoulders, since you will not have warmed up sufficiently for this pose, and that can lead to injury. Switch sides.
5. Baddha Konasana (Cobbler's/Butterfly Pose)
This is a nice stretch for the inner thighs, glutes, and low back.
Bring the soles of the feet together, knees come out to the sides. Grab and press the tops of your feet together. Inhale to straighten the spine. Then, press your chest through, and begin to slowly fold from the hips, keeping a straight back. When you've hit your limit, allow your head to hang. Stay here for a little while. Don't forget to breathe.
What Yoga Poses Can I Do After a Long Car Ride?
After a long car ride, your hip flexors and hamstrings will be tight, your lower back may be sore, and your neck might feel strained. The best poses to do after a long car ride are the poses that address these issues. Remember, with each of these poses, you will want to take deep breaths. Try holding each pose for at least five deep breaths.
1. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge) for Hip Flexors
From standing, take a step giant back with the left foot. Bend the right knee to a 90 degree angle. Then place the left knee on the ground and flip onto the top of the left foot. The right ankle is stacked underneath the right knee. Raise the arms up. Then, slowly sink the hips lower for a deeper stretch. Switch sides.
2. Uttanasana (Forward Fold) for Hamstrings and Back Body
Stand hips distance apart or keep feet flush together. Toes are forward, and feet are parallel. Inhale to raise the arms over the head. Exhale. Bend from the hips to fold. Let your fingers graze the ground. Let the head hang. Deep breaths. In through the nose, out through the nose. Let your preconceived notion of what the pose is supposed to look like (straight legs, fingers touching the toes) go. If you are straining to get your chest close to your thighs, bend your knees. Straining will actually take away all the benefits from this forward fold, so it's best to modify your body in order to get the most benefit.
3. Malasana (Yogi Squat) for Low Back
Feet are a little more than hip's distance apart and pointing slightly outwards. Begin to bend the knees out to the side and sink down through the hips. You can use your hands to support you on the floor. If you are having trouble coming down, come onto your tippy toes and see if that give you some more room to sink lower. Alternatively you can find a small seat (a block, rock, or anything really) that you lightly rest your sits bones on for support. If you're feeling good here, bring your palms together at your chest. Press elbows into knees and knees into elbows. Pull your chest through. Otherwise, keep your fingers on the ground for support.
4. Thoracic Opening with Clasped Hands
From a neutral, standing position, roll the arm bones back, and clasp your hands behind you. Press your hands down to work to straighten your arms and bring the heels of your palms to touch. Gaze up. You should feel a really nice opening in the chest and neck. You can add more intensity to this stretch by beginning to forward bend, while maintaining the clasp of your hands.
Post Road Trip Yoga Sequence
A really nice and simple sequence you can do after a road trip is a sun salutation A sequence. Sun sal A is a great way to get the heart pumping and blood flowing. When practiced in sync with the breath, this can really revitalize you during long travels or whatever you are feel stressed.
You can also find this sequence in the boredom section of the Wakeful Travel journal.
1. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Stand tall, with arms to the sides and palms facing forward. Toes are parallel and forward. Feet can be hips distance apart or together.
2. Arms up to Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Inhale to raise the arms up overhead.
3. Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
Exhale. From the hips, begin to fold down. Bend your knees to keep your chest close to your thighs.
4. Ardha Uttanasana (Half Lift)
Inhale. Place hands on the floor, shins, or thighs, inhale to straight the legs and back. Gaze forward.
5. Phalakasana (Plank Pose)
Exhale. Place your hands on the floor. Step the feet back into a plank pose. Wrists under shoulders. Shoulders in line with hips. Feet hips distance apart and parallel to each other. Bend knees if your low back is dipping.
6. Chatarunga Dandasana (Four-Limbed Staff Pose)
Bend knees here as needed. Inhale. Shift forward. Exhale. bend your elbows to 90 degrees. Hug your ribs with your elbows. Option to lower all the way to the ground or hold the position with elbows at 90 degrees.
7. Urdhva Mukha Shvanasana (Upward Facing Dog) or Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Inhale. Press the chest through. Come onto the tops of the feet. Bring shoulder blades together. For upward facing dog, thighs are off the ground. For cobra, thighs press into the ground.
8. Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Exhale. Curl toes under. Press hips up and straighten the arms. Press into your fingertips and knuckles. Tailbone reaches up. Arm bones rotate away from the ears. Bend knees if you feel strain in the low back (or if the low back is rounding).
9. Ardha Uttanasana (Half Lift)
In downward-facing dog, inhale to bend the knees. Exhale, step your feet forward. Keep the knees bent. Then place hands on the floor, shins, or thighs. Inhale to straighten the legs and pull the chest forward for a flat back.
10. Uttanasana (Forward Fold)
Exhale. Bend knees and bring the chest to the thighs.
11. Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute)
Inhale. Arm sweep up and over as you rise to a standing position.
12. Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
Exhale. Arms come down and rest by the sides with palms facing forwards. Repeat if you feel called.
How Does the Wakeful Travel Journal Incorporate Yoga Poses?
Wakeful Travel is all about the mindful and transformative travel experience. Travelling is not just about adding value to the camera roll in our phones, but it's about changing the way that we see life. It's about transforming our perspective of the world, and allowing these experiences to positively integrate with the way we interact with the world around us. To dive deeper into this, check out our article on transformative travel.
One of the ways that the Mindful Travel Journal incorporates ways to integrate your travel experiences, or just to recenter and find balance, is through the tools of yoga. Throughout each trip, different yoga postures are offered to be mirrored as a reminder to practice and stay connected with yourself. On top of that, the boredom section includes a couple pages dedicated to the yoga practice, including a bathroom break sequence (sun salutation A) and a fun, creative activity on chakras, for those looking to get deeper in their practice.
These activities are not just a way to kill time, but these poses present the opportunity for you to connect with the experience you're having and cultivate gratefulness for the life you're living. When you're able to do these things, your travels become, not just experiential, but transformational–not just experiences to keep, but experiences to grow from.
And that's what the Mindful Travel Journal is here for. Grab your very own from our shop.
Journal photo by @amandamarycreative