There’s lots to love about a road trip. But sitting for hours in a car isn’t one of them. Long rides can wreak havoc on your back, not to mention your neck, shoulders, hips and thighs.
At home, when you’re afflicted with an achy muscle or a stiff joint, you can easily practice a few yoga poses to help you feel better. But inside a car, you can’t exactly put yourself in downward dog.
There are some simpler yoga poses you can do. Hopefully, you’re traveling with another driver. Some of these moves we recommend only trying from the passenger seat. Give them a try. Your body will feel more limber, and your brain, calm and alert.
seated mountain pose (straightens spine)
Try this one even from the driver’s seat. Push your sit bones into your seat, then imagine you’re stacking each vertebra, like toy blocks, starting at the bottom and working your way up through your neck. Finally, balance your head on the top of this tall block stack. As your sit bones continue to press down, let your head be light as it reaches up towards the roof of your car. There! It should feel like you just grew 2 inches.
full yogic breath (enhances breathing)
Here’s one for both the driver and passengers. Breathe “full” and “complete” breaths. “Full” on the inhale, which means to expand your entire rib cage – front, back and sides – as you breathe in. “Complete” on the exhale, which means to completely release the entire capacity of your lungs as you breathe out. Repeat. Breathing like this not only helps keep your rib cage supple, it makes it easier for you to relax, smile, and feel compassion for the SUV driver who cut you off at the last exit.
ear to shoulder pose (loosens neck and shoulders)
This one is strictly for passengers. Pull your shoulders down away from your ears and back into your seat. Now gently release your right ear down towards your right shoulder; don’t let that shoulder pop up. Hold for one full and complete breathe. Then take your head back up to neutral and release left ear to left shoulder. Repeat. Notice if one side feels stiffer than the other, then accept the earth-shattering news that you may not be entirely symmetrical. Join the club.
abdominal lock (firms abs)
We recommend only passengers try this one. Use your abdominal muscles to pull in your belly button as far as it will go, then lift it upward and imagine you’re tucking it under the bottom of your rib cage. Release and relax. Then try to synchronize this with the cadence of your breath: pull up and tuck the belly as you exhale, release and relax on the inhale. Repeat. Keep this up for the entire trip and you just might have six-pack abs by the time you reach your destination.
tush lock (tones the tushie)
Passengers only… lift your sit bones up and away from the seat – without pressing into your feet. When the sit bones are lifted, try to pull them closer together. It should feel like you’re trying to squeeze your booty into a pair of too-small jeans. Good! Now relax, take a breath, and do it again. Experiment with the rhythm a bit; see if you can coordinate the squeezing and relaxing with the beat of next party anthem you hear on the radio.
waiter pose (opens the arms)
(Important: If you’re driving, do this one only if you’re stopped in traffic or at a light.) Hold onto the steering wheel with one hand, and then raise your other hand and firmly press it flat against the roof of the car. (Imagine you’re holding up a food service tray loaded with dishes.) Hold for a few seconds as you breathe. Release the pose, then take the hand back a little further. Press, breathe, and hold again. Keep taking the hand back a little at a time as you open up your arm pit and the side of your body. (This is also a great way to check the effectiveness of your antiperspirant.)