19 Yoga Tips for Travel: Why Stress When You Can Stretch?

Yoga Tips for Travel: Why Stress When You Can Stretch?  

PLiu Mogan 2014Summer isn’t summer without a vacation, a time away from our daily lives to renew and relax.  Unfortunately, stress, monotony and exhaustion oftentimes underlie our journey to that blissful vacation destination.  Modern travel takes a toll on the body and spirit as it frequently involves unnatural hours of sitting, standing and waiting, maneuvering oneself and baggage through massive crowds, disorienting time zone changes, and helpless dependency on events outside of our control.

Yoga for TravellersBut here is where yoga comes in because the purpose of yoga (according to the sage Patanjali) is to calm the fluctuations of the mind. And who doesn’t need some calming when, for example, it’s only hour four on the nine hour road trip, or a missed flight leaves us no choice but to cool our heels at the gate for a few more hours?

So why not calm the mind and body en route by practicing these easy stretches and meditations, and start that amazing vacation off on the right foot by being calm, centered and present even before you arrive?

Seated Meditations and Stretches for Travel

Seated Meditations and Stretches for Travel

These exercises can be done wherever you can find a place to sit.  Try them on a plane, bus, train, ferry, car or any waiting area that offers a chair or bench.

  1. Relaxing breathing and meditation 1:  Sit up straight with both feet on the floor.  Place your hands on your thighs.  Close your eyes.  Inhale slowly, deeply, and evenly for 4 beats, counting silently to yourself 1-2-3-4.  Exhale slowly and evenly for 4 beats, counting silently to yourself 1-2-3-4.  Do 10 repetitions of breath.  As you breathe, notice where your shoulders are and bring them down your back.  Concentrate on counting your breaths, and notice if any thoughts intrude.  If they do, just let these thoughts go, and continue with breathing evenly, and deeply, counting your breaths.

  2. Relaxing breathing and meditation 2:  Inhale slowly, deeply and evenly for 4 beats.  Exhale slowly and evenly for 6 beats.  Do 10 repetitions of breath.  Slowly open your eyes, and check in with yourself as to how you feel.

  3. Neck stretch 1.  Inhaling slowly and evenly, slowly tilt your head back, directing your chin and your gaze to the ceiling.  Exhaling slowly and evenly, bringing your chin down to your chest.  Move with your breath for 10 repetitions.

  4. Neck stretch 2.  Inhale, look to the right, moving your chin to your right shoulder.  Exhale, moving your head back to the middle.  Inhale, look to the left, moving your chin to your left shoulder.  Exhale, move your head back to the middle.

  5. Neck stretch 3.  Inhale, tilt your head to the right, move your right ear to your right shoulder.  Stay here for 3 full breaths.  Inhale, tilt your head to the left, move your left ear to your left shoulder.  Stay here for 3 full breaths.  Keeping your head tilted to one side, lift and lower your chin, looking for any areas of particular tightness.  Use your breath and movement to loosen the muscles in those areas.

  6. Eagle arms.  Bend one arm and bring it to your midline in front of your torso.  Bend your other arm and bring it under your first arm so that your elbows are stacked.  Allow the backs of your hands to touch or nearly meet.  Press your elbows together, and breathe in this position for 3 full breaths, noticing the stretch in your shoulders and upper back.  For more of a stretch, raise your elbows higher, and breathe for another 3 full breaths.

  7. Eagle arm alternative.  Hold the top of your left shoulder with your right hand, and the top of your right shoulder with your left hand so that your arms criss-cross in front of your torso.  Exhale, slowly bring your chin to your chest.  Breathe in this position for 3 full breaths.

  8. Seated cat and cow stretches.  Sit up straight, hands on knees, and feet flat on ground.  For cow stretch, inhale, keeping your hands on your knees, draw your elbows toward you, roll your chest open to the ceiling, bring your shoulders down, and your gaze to the ceiling.  For cat stretch, exhale, arch your back, bring your chin to your chest, and roll your shoulders forward.  Do 10 repetitions, breathing as you move slowly and fluidly, inhaling for cow, exhaling for cat.

  9. Seated twist.  Inhale, sit up straight, feet flat on the ground.  Exhale, twist to right, placing your left hand on your right knee and your right hand on the right armrest or back of the chair.  Use your left and right arms as leverage to deepen the twist.  Breath in this twist for 2 full breaths.  Exhale, release the twist and move your torso back to neutral, chest square to the seat in front of you.  For the left side, sit up straight, feet flat on the ground.  Exhale, twist to left, placing your right hand on your left knee and your left hand on the left armrest or back of the chair.  Use your left and right arms as leverage to deepen the twist.  Breath in this twist for 2 full breaths.  Exhale, release the twist and move your torso back to neutral, chest square to the seat in front of you.  5 repetitions on each side.

  10. Hip stretch 1:  Exhale, clasp your right knee with both hands, and bring your right knee toward your chest with your left foot flat on the floor.  Sit up straight, shoulders back, neck long and head reaching for the ceiling.  Hold for 3 full breaths, and release your leg.  Exhale, clasp your left knee with both hands, and bring your left knee toward your chest with your right foot flat on the floor.  Sit up straight, shoulders back, neck long and head reaching for the ceiling.  Hold for 3 full breaths, and release your leg.

  11. Hip stretch 2.  Bring your right ankle or shin over left knee.  Exhale, bend forward slightly to stretch your right hip.  Hold this stretch for 3 full breaths.  Bend further forward to deepen the stretch.  Bring your left ankle or shin over right knee.  Exhale, bend forward slightly to stretch your right hip.  Hold this stretch for 3 full breaths.

Standing Stretches for Travel

Yogi in Archway - Travel Yoga

Has your buttocks gone numb from too much sitting in your seat?  Numbness is a sign from your body that standing stretches are in order. Try these exercises on any stable floor surface.

  1. Chest opener and neck stretch: Clasp your hands so your palms are facing each other (or clasp opposing elbows) behind your back, draw your hands or elbows down toward your buttocks, opening your chest and bringing your shoulders down.  Stretch your neck by tilting your head to the left and right as you draw your hands down.  Move your chin up and down while holding this stretch and notice where it is tight in your neck and top of the shoulder.  Hold the stretch for each side for 3 full breaths.

  2. Standing forward bend.  Keeping your legs straight or with a slight bend, exhale and slowly bend forward, hinging from the hips.  Clasp opposing elbows, and feel the stretch in your hamstrings.  Hold the stretch for 3 full breaths.  Place your hands on your hips, inhale and raise your torso slowly to come up.

  3. Hamstring stretch.  Place one foot in front of the other, heel to toe. Exhale, hinging at the waist, bend forward over your front leg.  Hold the stretch for 3 full breaths.  Exchange sides, and repeat.

  4. Hamstring stretch 2.  Stand with your feet together, hips distance apart.  Step one leg back approximately a foot and a half, with the back foot pointed outward by 30 degrees.  Exhale, hinging at the waist, bend forward over your front leg.  Hold the stretch for 3 full breaths.  Exchange sides, and repeat twice on each side.

  5. Quad stretch and balance.  Stand on your right leg, grabbing your left ankle behind you.  Raise your right arm straight overhead, reaching the crown of your head to the ceiling.  Exchange sides, and repeat twice on each side.

  6. Side stretch.  Keep your hands on hips.  Exhale, bend at the waist to the right, and stretch your left arm overhead, so that your right arm is by your right ear.  Hold for 2 full breaths.  Inhale, bring your torso back to center, left arm to your side.  Exhale, bend at the waist to the left, and stretch your right arm overhead, so that your right arm is by your right ear.  Hold for 2 full breaths.  Repeat three times on each side.

  7. Toe stand.  Stand by a wall with one hand on the wall.  Inhale, raising yourself up onto the balls of your feet.  Raise your arms straight up on either side of your ears, keeping your spine straight, and the crown of your head reaching to the ceiling.  Balance on balls of your feet for 3 full breaths.  Do a standing forward fold afterwards to release your back.  Repeat two more times.

  8. Seated meditation.  End the practice with a brief meditation.  Sit with your hands on your thighs, back straight, and eyes closed.  Slowly count backwards from 20, counting each number on the exhale.  When you reach the end, slowly open your eyes, and check in with yourself.

Notice if you feel different now than when you first began, and let the benefits of the practice carry you into the beginnings of your wonderful vacation.  Namaste!

By Phoebe Liu

Phoebe Liu is a certified yoga teacher with a background in Iyengar and hatha yoga. Her practice emphasizes proper alignment and the breath. Phoebe firmly believes in the power of yoga and meditation to calm the turbulence of every day living, and especially stress and anxiety caused by the workplace. She teaches classes in downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. She can be reached at yogawithphoebe@gmail.com.

2 comments

  1. I will definitely try these during my next fly to France. Wonderful write-up, so clear.
    Thanks Phoebe!

  2. Wonderful suggestions for flying or even sitting at a desk! Thank you for sharing this knowledge, PL!

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