August 19, 2021

Yoga for Traveling: Simple, Seated Stretches to Try

Whether you’re in plane, train or automobile, try poses to loosen you up

travel yoga seated stretch

Snap, crackle, pop! If you’ve ever set out for faraway destinations, you probably know the feeling: As you finally step out of the car or off the plane to stretch your body, it sounds a little bit like popping a sheet of bubble wrap. What’s a weary traveler to do?

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Being confined to small spaces while traveling can be difficult on your body. It can also cause pain as well as stress — which are the last things you want on a vacation or business trip.

“With just some simple motions, you can feel a lot better and make your trip feel more comfortable,” says yoga therapist Judi Bar, E-500 RYT, C-IAYT.

She shares simple but helpful tips for yoga for long car rides and other forms of travel, regardless of how little space is available to you.

5 poses to help with travel aches and pains

Seated cat-cow pose

This pose helps to soften and lubricate your spine, creating space between your vertebrae and increasing circulation.

  1. Sit up straight with plenty of room behind you on the chair.
  2. As you exhale, lean forward and lift your head upward.
  3. As you inhale, round your spine and look toward your belly button.
  4. Repeat at least three times.

“That breathing brings you more oxygen, which can help you feel more awake or calmer — whichever one you need,” Bar says.

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Seated spinal twist

Within the confines of a train seat, the backseat of a car or even the middle seat on an airplane, you can still give your back a nice break by doing spinal twists. They stretch your torso, ribs and respiratory muscles and even help to massage your internal organs.

“You can absolutely do this move within the confines of a chair or seat, and you don’t have to be very obvious about doing it,” Bar says.

  1. Keep your feet on the floor, with alignment through the joints.
  2. Inhale, lengthening your spine and keeping your shoulders parallel. With that tall spine, rotate toward the back of the chair and place one hand on your leg and one hand on the chair.
  3. Hold for 3 to 5 breaths.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

Neck rolls

Slow, steady neck rolls are a simple type of yoga that can easily be done on long car rides and other types of travel. They loosen the muscles to help alleviate tension in the shoulders and neck.

“You might hear some popping, but as long as there’s no pain with it, it’s fine,” Bar advises. (If you feel any pain, stop doing neck rolls immediately!)

  1. Imagine a clock right in front of you, and slowly circle your nose around the clock, letting the weight of your head help stretch your neck.
  2. Breathe slowly, in and out, as you do your neck rolls.
  3. Reverse directions and repeat.

Shoulder rolls

Loosen your shoulder muscles and release tension with simple but impactful shoulder rolls.

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  1. Scoot forward a bit, making sure your back isn’t touching the back of your seat.
  2. Draw circles with your shoulders in one direction. “Think up, back and down,” Bar instructs.
  3. Repeat in the other direction.

As with all yoga poses, be sure to keep your breath steady with each movement.

Seated forward fold

This simple move stretches the lower and upper back. You’ll need some space to bend to the front of your seat, so you may not be able to move fully forward on an airplane. But it’s perfect for getting in some movement as you’re sitting in the terminal waiting or on the train, plane, bus or car.

  1. Keep your feet on the floor, with alignment through your joints.
  2. Take a deep breath in, and roll your spine forward, reaching to the ground as if you’re picking something up under the seat; alternatively, place your forearms on your thighs and lean as far forward as you can. Let your head hang for a breath in and out (but be careful if you feel dizzy).
  3. Slowly sit up, rolling your spine back into a seated position.

“While you’re on the go, the key is to give yourself a variety of motion and listen to what your body needs,” Bar says. “Try to move as much as you can to help your circulation, and always remind yourself to breath.”

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