The holidays mean travel, and on a recent road trip through California I found myself feeling tight and achy from all the time I was spending in the car. Luckily I'm pretty resourceful, and a four-and-a-half-hour car ride gives a traveling yogi plenty of time to think. So I spent a good deal of my travel time dreaming up poses I could do on driving breaks that would stretch out my hips, shoulders, and hamstrings.
I came up with 10 of them, and I have to say—after days on the road, my body didn't ache at all. If you're traveling this holiday season, here's how to stay healthy on the road.
1. Warrior 2.
The name of this posture says it all: warrior. Think strength, agility, power, and grace as words to describe both this posture and what you can embody when practicing it. Want to take it a step further? Close your eyes. Enjoy the experience to feel, ground, and breathe.
2. Assisted dancer pose.
In this variation of traditional dancer’s pose, I invite you to use any wall, chair, or standing fixture (in this case, a roadside) to offer support. With that supported base, you can focus more on the proper alignment of the rest of the body, including squaring the hips, lifting up from the breastbone, engaging your upper back, and staying active in the standing leg.
3. Triangle pose.
Relieving stress and improving digestion, this happens to be one of my favorite postures. Simultaneously stretching and strengthening your thighs, knees, and ankles, creating a solid foundation in your body and lower extremities.
4. Tree pose.
Trees have some of the strongest abilities to withstand hard times (have you even seen a palm tree weather a hurricane?), so take a cue from nature on creating deeper roots to stand taller, stronger, and wiser doing this pose. Be sure to keep the bent leg above or below your knee, to not place extra and unnecessary weight on the joint, and to stay active in the standing leg to ease balance. Looking for a challenge? Start by extending your arms overhead to the sky. Take it a step further by closing one eye, maybe both!
5. Extended hand-to-big-toe pose.
Strong legs, open hips, open hamstrings, and a tough inner compass, the posture is a challenging standing pose that not only builds self-esteem as you gain ability to hold this posture for longer lengths of time but happens to be awesome for stretching your legs during longs car rides. If the idea of extending your leg all the way has your hamstring in a tizzy, don’t fret! You can bend that top leg or employ a towel or strap to receive the same benefits of the posture to stretch the extended hamstring.
6. Twisted lunge.
A backbend, a twist, and a balancing challenge: This variation of a traditional lunge pose takes root in the legs, builds strength in the core, and opens the upper back while providing a sweet twist for the side body. Again, you can opt to close your eyes on this one to test your core balance and inner eye to guide you.
7. Bound half-moon.
One of my favorite variations in a standing pose balance, this posture stretches both the standing leg hamstrings and both inner thighs while strengthening the spine and stretching open the heart. Feel free to use a strap or towel around that lifted foot for assistance, and use a block or a book under the bottom hand to elevate the body if you aren’t quite there yet to touch the floor.
8. Crow pose.
OK, maybe doing this one on a rock isn’t the safest way to learn how to get into this balance, but I promise you, my mind wasn’t on any other thing while trying to hold this one! Being honest, that’s the beauty of balances (and yoga, in general): When you’re in these challenging poses, your mind doesn’t have the option to veer off into self-doubt or failure. Because the minute it does, you’re going down! So, breathe, believe, focus, and take flight.
9. Bound dancer pose.
This one took me years to accomplish, which requires both open shoulders, back, chest, and hip flexor muscles to achieve on its own. Start slow with option No. 2 above, and build gradually up to this variation. The best tip I learned was to use a strap around the lifted leg and inch my hand overhead closer toward my foot slowly, while using a wall for support with the extended arm for balancing, focusing on one thing at a time instead of many. Patience and practice get your further than luck.
Want more tips on how to build self-esteem? Here are seven big tips.
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