Expedia.com asked me to share tips to stay healthy and fit while traveling, these are my top 8 yoga poses to combat the pains of long travels.
Anyone who has traveled can tell you it comes with its ups and its downs. There’s amazing food, kind people, stunning views, but then there’s also stiff backs from long flights, tight legs from walking around so much and overworked livers and kidneys from indulging in a little fun. This past year I traveled for 10 months, racking up over 150 hours in the air and visiting over 10 countries. I’ve taken 15-hour flights to Sydney, 12-hour train rides in Vietnam and 7-hour mini-bus rides through Thailand. I kayaked across borders in Laos and Cambodia. I’ve hiked through the coastal headlands in Australia, and I even made it over to Colombia for a wedding, dancing all through the night!
You could say I’ve had my fair share of sore backs, necks and hips from sitting on a plane, train or bus for far too long, and after months of trying to work out what would be the best remedy, I finally discovered yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga on and off for the last 9 years, but I never really thought about the intense benefits of practicing after a long bout of travel until my recent trip through Asia.
Not only does yoga release tension in your physical body, it also releases the mental stress and emotional strain that long days of travel are sure to come with. After contemplating my own practice and chatting with a few of my favourite yogis, I’ve come up with my favourite yoga poses to combat tension, stress and fatigue that travel may bring about.
1.) Marjaryasana / Bitilasana (Cat / Cow Pose) – This is a great way to start off your practice. Its slow, yet dynamic movements begin to wake up the body, and stretch and strengthen your lower back. After sitting in a cramped train for 10 hours, your back will thank you.
2.) Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) – This pose will get your blood pumping and circulating throughout your body. It’s a great way to stretch out your hamstrings, shoulders, calves and side bodies. It will feel great after walking and exploring a new city all day long.
3.) Prasarita Padottanasana (Wide Legged Forward Bend) – I love this pose after sitting for a period of time on those long train and bus rides. It releases the lower back and shoulders, and allows for gravity to take over. You can take this pose in many variations, but my favourite is with my fingers interlaced behind my back, pulling my hands away from shoulders, over my head.
4.) Pigeon Pose – Pigeon is a tough pose for me to practice, especially after a long flight. It completely releases the tension in your hips, increases flexibility in your hip flexors and is an enormous emotional release. It’s not uncommon to feel like you want to cry or laugh in this pose. Do what feels comfortable for you. Any variation will serve its purpose and get you ready for another day of travel.
5.) Sirsasana (Headstand) – Really any inversion will do, but headstand is my favourite. Inversions are a beneficial way to get the blood flowing and moving all around the body. When I’m on a plane for too long, I can feel my feet and knees start to go a bit numb – I’m talking about those 15 hour flights to Sydney! Inversions allow the blood to move freely and bring new, fresh blood to hard to reach spaces. Inversions also boost your metabolism and allow your mind to clear.
6.) Ardha Matsyendrāsana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose) – You can’t go wrong with a good twist! I find after a holiday of indulging, my liver and kidneys need some extra TLC. When you twist your body, you are cleansing your body by releasing toxins and awakening your spine.
7.) Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) – Traveling can wear you out! When I’m feeling extra sluggish and ache-y, I always love to practice Bridge Pose. It can be energizing, restorative and rejuvenating all at the same time. You’re quite literally bending your back into the opposite direction you’ve been sitting in for a few hours time.
8.) Svanasana (Corpse Pose) – Lastly, I always end each practice in Svanasana. Even if I don’t have time to go through each of these poses, I always make time to lie on the hard floor and breathe. It can be wildly restorative to lay horizontally and allow the ground to absorb your weight after a stressful day of navigating to a new country. After being up in the sky all day, sometimes all you need is to feel a little bit grounded.
Try to practice each pose with 5-6 breaths, and remember to do only what feels good for you. Practicing yoga before and after long days of travel has totally transformed the way my body reacts to the jet lag, physical discomfort and stress that comes with it.
What are your favorite yoga poses?