I began writing part two to last week’s blog post when I remembered - Thanksgiving is this week! Then I quickly realized that I have a 10 hour drive ahead of me to get to my Thanksgiving feast in New Jersey. My body ached just thinking about the drive… sitting… getting stiff… sitting some more… getting stiffer!
So, instead of sitting down to write my blog post for today, I walked outside and sat in my car. I sat and thought about what I could do to avoid/prevent the onset of the dreaded road-trip body freeze. The first question I had to answer was: which parts of my body would be the most aggravated by sitting in a car for an extended period of time?
I narrowed it down to three areas: 1. Neck/shoulders 2. Hamstrings 3. Spine
Whether you are the driver or the co-pilot in charge of keeping the driver awake, your body isn't moving around very much. Lack of movement causes the body to begin to seize up and get cranky. The solution: MOVE YOUR BODY! Especially the three regions that really start to hurt the most as we sit cruising along with millions of other travelers. Obviously, this is easy for passengers to do throughout the ride, but for the driver, you will have use your potty breaks and gas stops to make this happen.
Back to me sitting the car. Three trouble zones meant I needed at least three poses. I flopped around in my car for a bit trying out different poses and getting some strange looks from passersby. Finally, I settled on three poses that only take about 5 minutes to achieve a good counter to road-trip body freeze.
Garurasana Arms – Eagle Arms
This is a great shoulder opener and posterior neck release.
In some versions of Eagle Arms you are taught to pull your arms off your chest. However, in this version, I want you to focus on hugging the arms into the chest while floating the chest into the arms.
To set it up, wrap your left arm under your right elbow and either interlace your fingers together making a fist, or if you have tight shoulders grab your right thumb with your left hand. Regardless of your grip, keep your thumbs aimed at your face. Relax the tops of your shoulders back and down away from your ears.
Now, take a deep breath in to lengthen the spine and float the chest bone up into your arms. On the exhale, hug your arms into your chest. Repeat this for two or three breath cycles and then hold this pose at your depth for two or three breath cycles.
You should feel a lovely stretch between the shoulder blades, beneath the shoulder blades, and from the tops of the shoulders through the backside of the neck to the base of the skull.
If you would like to get more neck stretching, keep your arms where they are, take a breath in, exhale look gently to the left left, inhale looking left, exhale back to center. Repeat to the right side. I recommend adding the neck twist once you have taken a few breaths in the heart of this pose.
Paschimotanasana – Leg Stretching Pose
The focus here is stretching out those pesky hamstrings and compressing/massaging the front of your hip joints, especially your hip flexors.
To set it up from the co-pilot seat: kick your heals up onto the dashboard (depending on your leg length you may need to adjust the seat), keep your sit bones on the car seat, bend your knees as much as needed to grab the outer edges of your feet just below your toes.
Open your upper chest, relax the top of your shoulders away from your ears, flatten your upper back and engage your lower bell muscles/pelvic floor muscles (the muscles from your belly button to your pubic bone).
Moving into the pose, take a breath in to lengthen the spine and on the exhale begin to press your knees down and heals forward. Keep your spine long and chest open…no arching of the spine or concaveness of the chest. If you are able to straighten your legs and engage your quads, the very gently pull on the sides of your feet. Say hello to your hamstrings.
Repeat 3-5 rounds: inhaling to lengthen spine, exhaling slowly lengthening hamstrings. NOTE: Do not hyper extend your knee joints. Just press the knees down until you can engage your quadriceps. When your legs are straight with engaged quads then your hamstrings are likely pretty open. Focus on lengthening and decompressing the spine. Remember, some discomfort or intensity of sensation is fine to work through with your breath. Feeling acute jabbing pain or the sensation something might pop… back off!
Seated Spinal Twist
Remember, your spine is not warmed-up so I want you to take it slow and not too deep with this twist. Twisting is a wonderful way to massage and detoxify your internal organs and spinal column as well as nourishing them when you release the twist. Remember: the happier the spine is… the happier the rest of your body will be!
Start by sitting cross-legged with your left leg on top. Sit up nice and tall so you can feel your sit bones pointing straight down into your car seat. Take your right hand and place it on the top of your left knee. Take your left hand and wrap it around your lower waste with your palm facing out. Look gently over your left shoulder. With your inhale press your sit-bones down to lengthen your spine and back of the neck towards the roof. With your exhale, engage your lower abdominals/pelvic floor and gently use your right hand on your left knee as leverage to slowly twist the spine. Repeat 3-5 times on each side: inhale lengthen spine, exhale twist spine.
I hope these poses help during your drive as much as I am counting on them to help me stay loose during my drive to Turkey feasting! Please share your car-yoga poses, these or others that you practice on long car rides on the Wandering Spirit Yoga Travel Facebook page. More proof to the world that you can take your practice everywhere and anywhere!