Summer Hack: A 7-Pose Yoga Sequence To Stay Balanced During Your Travels

Written by Olga Palladino

Photo by Brandon Powers

Summer is officially here! And here at mbg we’re all about traveling light and creating space for real transformation. Whether you’re jetting off to far-away lands this year or just exploring new pockets of your neighborhood, these next few months are reserved for exploration and play. This week, we’ll be sharing our favorite wellness routines that will keep you feeling your best through long days getting lost in new culturesToday, we’re featuring a quick restorative yoga flow to help you let go of all that travel tightness.

Spending summer weekends traveling is one of the most eagerly anticipated and lovely experiences the season offers. The pull of the majestic ocean on beach days, city bike rides, farmers market shopping for a night of grilling for friends and family—the list runs endlessly of summer's bounty full of goodness. With travel can come a loss of routine and for some, frequent flying that can cause our bodies to tighten up from constant sitting. Plus, frequent travel in any capacity, while exciting, can be physically and mentally exhausting.

Eventually, stiffness and agitation set in, and stressors from the factors that tend to make travel a bit more cumbersome (airports and traffic jams, anyone?) only add to the tension. Some areas are specifically prone to stiffness when driving—the lower back can compress, and sciatica can flare up, leaving hips, hamstrings, and the lower back feeling very tight; meanwhile, frustration stiffens into the neck and shoulders—not exactly the best way to kick off a relaxing weekend.

Looking for a way to unwind after that long drive? Start by incorporating long inhales and exhales with the following poses that will help to loosen up the body and relax the mind:

1. Cat-cow pose

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Benefits: Lubricates the entire spine. The extending and rounding of the chest and spine loosens shoulders, neck, and back, relieving tension. Engaging the belly during cat pose also strengthens your core to stimulate the abdominal organs.

  1. Begin on hands and knees: shoulders over hands; hips over knees; long, natural spine.
  2. Inhale to arch the spine, raising chest and dropping belly. Broaden across heart; draw shoulder blades toward each other.
  3. Exhale to round the spine, tuck the chin and drop the tailbone, engage the belly.
  4. Go through 10 rounds of cat/cow.

2. Downward-facing dog

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Benefits: Energizes the body and creates space in the lower back, while stretching shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands. It also calms the brain, relieving stress that can build after sitting in traffic.

  1. From tabletop, tuck the toes, press firmly into the palms to lift the hips up and back, pedal out the legs, bending one knee and then the other.
  2. Find stillness with the legs straight and active, or knees slightly bent.Ground down into all 10 fingers, especially index finger and thumb.
  3. Rotate arms externally slightly so elbow creases face thumbs.
  4. Engage quadriceps and rotate thighs inward as you continue to lift sitz bones high.
  5. Reach heels toward the floor.
  6. Take 5 long inhales and exhales with closed mouth.

3. Extended puppy pose

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Benefits: This pose continues the work from these two poses to lengthen the spine and quiet the mind; plus, it's a perfect counterpose to clutching the steering wheel; the arms and shoulder girdle love it.

  1. This is a delicious cross between downward dog and child’s pose.
  2. Return to tabletop.
  3. Walk hands forward and melt heart (and maybe forehead or chin) down toward the earth.
  4. Hips stay high, stacked over knees.
  5. Hold for 3 to 5 long inhales and exhales.

4. Standing forward fold

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Benefits: This pose lengthens the spine and stretches hamstrings and calf muscles.

  1. Come to standing; feet can touch or remain slightly apart.
  2. Hinge from hips to fold forward, lengthening the spine down and tucking belly in slightly.
  3. Hands can touch the ground outside or in front of feet, or clasp opposite elbows.
  4. Legs can be straight and active, or, for especially tight hamstrings, softly bend the knees to really get the benefit.
  5. Don’t let all your weight fall back into your heels.
  6. Option to interlace hands behind you for shoulder stretch and opening across the collarbones.
  7. Tuck chin and look within.
  8. To increase the stretch farther, grab the heel or shin with opposite hand for a nice twist that enhances detoxification. Hold for 5 long equal inhales and exhales.

5. Crescent low-lunge pose with arm variation

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Benefits: This expansive posture stretches the hip flexors and psoas, thighs, and groin; opens the chest; and stretches shoulders while activating arms. The eagle arm variation gives some much-needed space to the shoulders.

  1. Make your way to downward dog.
  2. Step right foot forward between hands, aligning right knee over heel.
  3. Lower left knee to the floor.
  4. Press hips forward as you lift torso upright.
  5. Cross right arm over left and double wrap for eagle arms; raising elbows, bring in line with shoulders; lift the gaze.
  6. Take 5 long inhales and exhales.
  7. Repeat on opposite side.

6. Pigeon pose

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Benefits: This pose is a deep and well-deserved hip opener, stretching hips, groin, IT band, quads, and psoas. It also stimulates abdominal organs.

  1. From starting position in pose, draw the right leg forward; set the knee down behind the right wrist, and the shin down on a gentle diagonal.
  2. Hips should be squared off pointing forward.
  3. Walk hands back toward hips for a moment, to lower pelvis toward the floor, to stabilize hips, and to open back and shoulders.
  4. Then extend back leg long and straight behind you. Fold chest over front leg.
  5. Hold for as long as you want—be it 3, 5, or 20 seconds! Take long inhales and exhales.
  6. Repeat on the opposite side.

7. Half-seated spinal twist

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Benefits: This pose works against compression in spine and stretches the shoulders, hips, and neck.

  1. Come to sitting; extend the legs long in front of you.
  2. Bend the left knee, and step the sole of your left foot to the floor on the outside of your right thigh.
  3. Either leave right leg straight or bend your right knee and tuck your right foot in near your left buttock.
  4. Inhale and bring your right arm straight up beside your ear.
  5. Exhale and twist your torso to the left, bringing your right elbow to the outside of your left knee; left arm reaches behind; palm plants on the earth.
  6. Take your gaze over your left shoulder; exhale for a deeper stretch.
  7. Be sure to twist from the belly and not the neck.
  8. Hold for 5 breaths.
  9. Repeat on the opposite side.

8. Fire log pose with optional forward fold

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Benefits: The fire log pose provides a deep stretch in the hips. It also engages and strengthens abdominal muscles. Through this, the pose may also help to regulate digestion and metabolism.

  1. From seated crossed-legged position, stack your right ankle over your left knee.
  2. Make sure your right knee is over your left ankle. (You can also opt to have the bottom leg extended instead of bent.)
  3. Shins should be parallel to the front of the mat, creating a triangle shape between the legs.
  4. Inhale to find length in the spine; exhale to fold forward; crawl hands forward with each exhale.
  5. Hold for 5 long inhales and exhales.
  6. Switch feet to do opposite side.
  7. To modify, use block or folded blanket under the raised knee.

Looking to reboot your yoga practice? Try these 11 poses to refresh your flow.

And are you ready to learn how to fight inflammation and address autoimmune disease through the power of food? Join our 5-Day Inflammation Video Summit with mindbodygreen’s top doctors.

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