I have the privilege of calling the extremely talented and ever-so-lovely multi-instrumentalist Rob Flax one of my yoga clients. He's about to go on a big tour and he asked me this week what kind of yoga he could do on the road. I put together this list of modified poses to keep his body feeling as good as possible between countless hours of traveling and playing.
Of course, anyone, musician or otherwise, can benefit from doing these stretches to counteract all the sitting that comes with modern travel. If you experience any kind of back and/or neck pain while traveling, you are going to like this post! All these poses can while traveling – on a bus, on a plane, or in a waiting area.
Many thanks to actor Glen Moore for being my model.
SEATED FIGURE 4
You can do this one right in your seat! Start with both feet firmly on the floor, lift the crown of your head and find a long straight spine. Place your right foot on top of your left knee. Flex the foot. Then you can begin to hinge forward from the hips if you have the space. You may not need to fold very deeply to feel a stretch in the back of the right hip. Hold for at least ten breaths, then switch feet and repeat on the other side.
Put your hands in your lap and relax your shoulders. Take an inhale and on the exhale, tip your right ear to your right shoulder, stretching out the left side of your neck. Stay for a couple breaths, come back to center on an inhale, and then tip your left ear to your left shoulder on an exhale. Take a few breaths. Come back to center. Then bring your chin to your chest to stretch out the back of your neck. Stay for at least five breaths in each place.
HAND AND FINGERS
Reach both arms out in front of you, and spin your right hand around so your palm is facing up and your fingers are pointing down towards the floor. Wrap all the fingers on your left hand around all the fingers on your right and gently pull your right fingers back towards you. You can bend your right elbow if you want a little more stretch. Take 5-10 breaths and switch sides.
Then, stretch each finger individually, starting with the pinky and finishing with the thumb. Be sure to wrap all four fingers of the left hand around each finger you're stretching on the right hand. Then switch hands.
Stand with both feet firmly on the ground. Grab the seat in front of you or next to you for support and grab your right foot with your right hand. Reach your knee down and back and pull your foot closer to your backside. Hold for 5-10 breaths. Switch sides.
I've done this both at my seat on a bus (while it was parked) and in the aisle on a plane.
If you can find the space to stand in a lunge, do that too, and hold for 10-15 breaths on each side. Make sure your front knee is over your front ankle and you have a small bend in your back knee. Always do both sides.
This forward fold is also great if you can find the space to do it.
First stand tall and interlace your fingers at the base of your spine. Reach your knuckles down towards the floor and spread your collarbones wide. Then bend your knees and fold forward. Stay for a few breaths. If you don't have the space to fold, you can still get a lot out of the interlace and stretching your knuckles down towards the floor.
This one is probably best suited for a waiting area as it requires you to stretch out to your full wingspan. Reach your arms straight out at shoulder height. Then lift your fingertips up to the sky for a nice stretch through the underside of the forearms. Stay for a few breaths.
Keeping your arms out, rotate your arms so your palms face forward. Then fold your thumbs into your palms and wrap your fingers around your thumbs.
Then point your knuckles down towards the floor and pull gently on your thumbs for a nice stretch across the tops of the arms.
LEGS UP THE WALL
I've only been able to do this in the airport. If you can find a mostly empty waiting area with a free wall, you can take the deeply restorative viparita kirani at the wall. I was told by another yogi years ago that 20 minutes of viparita kirani is as restorative as two hours of sleep. As someone who's always tired, this is my go to pose. It is really good for surviving delays, long trips, hangovers, or sleep deprivation.
Sit on the floor with your right hip up against the wall. Rotate your torso and legs to the right so your back is on the floor and your legs are up against the wall with heels pointing to the ceiling. Stay as long as you like but really take your time coming out of the pose. Roll on to your side, stay there for a few moments, then come to a seated position on the floor. Stay seated for a few breaths before attempting to rise to avoid a head rush.
OTHER TIPS FOR MORE COMFORTABLE TRAVEL
- Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated will help your body feel better through all the transition.
- Have some kind of lumbar support. You can buy a special pillow just for this but even rolling up a jacket and placing it behind the lowest part of the curve of your spine can give you some support and make sitting for long periods much easier.
- Most airports have prayer and meditation rooms. Seek one out to get some peace and quiet, and a break from screens. It might even be a good place to put your legs up the wall.
- Bring healthy snacks. It can be hard to eat well on the road but avoiding sugar and processed foods can make a big difference in keeping your body comfortable. Plan ahead and buy your favorite granola bars, pemmican (like Epic or Tanka), or other snacks in bulk. Travel will often back you up so prunes are a great snack to keep on hand too. : )