Traveling can be tiring business. Despite the allure of adventure, excitement, and spiritual clairvoyance, your body still has to get there, walk around, and carry all your shit with you. After a while aches build up and fatigue sets in. You’re thinking of your bed and that massage parlor you passed earlier…
But wait, you don’t need that erotic oil massage. You probably just need to stretch. They say your body is your temple but I think it’s more like your car. Doing some light stretching every day is like regular maintenance work for your vehicle. A simple alignment here, equalizing pressure there, and you’ll likely get through your trip in good standing.
Try these 6 stretches out. If you like them, use them on your next trip, whenever and wherever you go.
1. Downward Dog
For: Lower Back, Shoulders, Spine, Hamstrings, Calves
This is the bread and butter of every yoga practitioner. A relatively easy pose to learn, it nonetheless has immense benefits for stretching out the entire back side of your body. From your shoulders all the way down to your calves, these are the parts that take the biggest beating after a day of travel. As someone who’s had problems with his lower back and shoulders, Downward Dog is essentially my “cure all” stretch.
- Start in a plank (pushup) position. Hands are shoulder width apart and placed directly underneath your shoulders. Feet are hip width apart. Keep your core tight and your body as straight as possible.
- Slowly push your body back towards your legs, bending at the waist and forming a V shape with your legs and torso. Inhale slowly as you do this. Once you are in the end position, exhale slowly and relax.
- Stay in this pose for 5 breaths. Let your head hang freely.
AREAS OF NOTE:
- Do not strain yourself. If your legs and lower back feel exceptionally tight as you push into the pose, bend your knees slightly to alleviate the tension. Warming up beforehand is also a good idea.
- The goal is to get your heels to the floor. Don’t rush it! Work slowly, comfortably, and repetitively towards this goal.
2. Child’s Pose
For: Lower Back, Shoulders, Spine
Have you ever thought about stretching in the mornings but didn’t want to get out of bed? Well then consider Child’s Pose – the low effort way to start your day. This super chill pose targets some of the same areas as Downward Dog but stretches them in a much gentler fashion. It’s a great way to energize your body in the mornings or relax it before sleeping. And what’s better, it’s wicked comfortable and you can do it right on your bed!
- Start in a kneeling position where your shins are pressed flat against the floor and you are sitting back on your feet.
- Open your knees slightly so that they are pointed outward. Your feet will naturally cross themselves.
- Keeping your butt on your feet, slowly lean forward and reach with your arms (inhale slowly) until your hands, forearms, and head are all pressed against the floor (exhale slowly). Your belly will be naturally pressed against/between your thighs.
- Stay in this pose for as long as you like. Keep your body relaxed and comfortable.
NOTE: This is a great pose to do right after Downward Dog
3. Corner Stretch
For: Chest, Shoulders
Carrying luggage is probably the most joyless part of traveling. If you’ve ever lugged around a heavy ass bag all day, you know that familiar sense of tension building in your upper body. Use this stretch to bring relief to the front of your torso, opening up your chest and letting your heart breathe a bit easier. If you also have shoulder pains, this stretch is magic.
- Face a corner and stand about 2 feet away.
- Raise your hands in the “I’m unarmed!” gesture.
- Place your forearms flat against each wall. They will be directly vertical and parallel to each other. The points from your elbow to your shoulder will be directly horizontal and form a line parallel to the floor.
- Take a step forward with one leg and stay in a half lunge position. Lean forward with your torso, opening your chest and squeezing your shoulder blades back. Arc your lower back so that your torso keeps a vertical line. You will feel the stretch in your chest and shoulders. Do not go past where you feel comfortable.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds.
- Switch legs and repeat.
NOTE: If you don’t have an open corner, you can do a variation of this stretch using a door frame.
4. Neck Tilt
For: Neck, Upper Back
Often an overlooked part of the body, your neck has the anatomical importance of being the primary connector between your brain and spine. That means it plays the vital role of traffic controller for commands going from your mind to the rest of your body. The better you take care of your neck, the faster your body responds to your brain. Before when I had my lower back injury, my chiropractor insisted that I do neck stretches as part of my rehab. He told me that keeping your neck’s natural alignment has a direct impact on spinal posture, energy levels, and sense of alertness. Proper alignment was what he called “turning on the power”.
- Assume a comfortable sitting position. Keep your back straight and your shoulders relaxed.
- Slowly tilt your head back. Allow the weight of your head (it’s an impressive 8-12 lbs!) to do the stretching. Do not go past where you feel comfortable.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds.
- Slowly tilt your head forward. Again, allow the weight of your head to do the stretching. And do not exceed your point of comfort.
- Stay in this position for 30 seconds.
5. & 6. Knee Rotation to Hip Opener
For: Knees, Hamstrings, Hips
I just came across these stretches recently. I’d been having recurring knee pain and my girlfriend decided to be awesome and research some exercises I could do. This video by yoga instructor Tara Stiles is what she found:
For ease of explanation, I will give instruction using “Left” or “Right”. Simply switch the two when you’re changing sides.
- Start with laying flat on your back.
- Bring your right knee to your chest. Your left leg is still extended.
- Clasp your hands over your knee and hug it towards you.
- Slowly make small, gentle rotations with your knee (clockwise, then counterclockwise). You can actually feel the tendons inyour knees moving around as you do this.
- From the Knee Rotation position, shift your right knee so that it points outward and move your ankle towards your chest. It feels like you’re about to cross your legs man style.
- Bend your left leg and bring it towards your body.
- Rest your right ankle just above your left knee. You are now crossing your legs in the style of man.
- Reach under and through your right leg and clasp your hands over your left knee. Your right arm reaches through the opening between your legs and your left arm reaches under your right ankle.
- Make small, gentle circles with your left knee. This will move both your legs. Focus on the rotations of your right hip and knee.
NOTE: I also recommend the first exercise in Tara’s video (above), especially if you have knee pain. While it’s not a stretch, it’s a great, gentle way to strengthen the ligaments around your knee.
Happy stretching, folks!