Travel takes a toll on the body — even if it’s a vacation to recharge. Long flights, train rides and road trips mean sitting in small spaces for hours and leave our bodies tight and stiff. Practice this five-pose yoga session before and after your journey to lengthen and stretch the body. Hold each pose for 5–10 breaths to shake off the exhausting and bring on the exciting.
This pose is a salve that soothes and calms the body. It stretches the low back, hips, thighs and ankles while increasing circulation to the head, which can relieve stress, fatigue and headaches.
The Move: Kneel down and sit on your heels with your knees and feet together. As you exhale, bend forward, placing your forehead on the floor. Extend your arms forward, placing your palms down to lengthen your torso and stretch your arms.
Sitting for too long compresses and tightens the hip flexors. This lunge variation is the perfect antidote and opens them up.
The Move: From standing forward fold, bend your knees, take both hands to the floor and step your left foot back. Drop the left knee and slide the foot back until you feel a gentle stretch through the front of your thigh. Stay here, with your hands framing your right foot, or inhale and lift your torso up, resting your hands on your front thigh or sweeping your arms overhead. Hold here for 5–10 breaths and then, on an exhale, frame your right foot, turn your left toes under, engage your left leg, step forward to standing forward fold and repeat on the other side.
COW FACE POSE
When yogis come into this pose, the body is supposed to look like the face of a cow. Forget playing spot the farm animal and focus on the deep stretch to the hips and shoulders which start to hunch forward after too much sitting.
The Move: Start in a comfortable, seated position and cross your right thigh over the left. Slide your feet out in opposite directions, as if you were tying a shoelace so that each foot rests next to the opposite hip. You’re aiming to stack one knee on top of the other, but a space between the two is normal. Try to sit evenly on your bottom.
Inhale and lift your left arm up overhead. Bend your elbow and rest your palm on your upper back or shoulder blade, depending on your reach. Use your right hand to gently press your left elbow down. Take the right around your back, palm facing out, and try to reach your left hand. If you can’t touch — and that’s common — take a towel or strap in your left hand and reach your right hand for the towel. Lift your left elbow toward the ceiling. Keep your spine tall.
After 5–10 breaths, switch sides. Remember, if your right leg is on top, your right arm is the bottom arm, and if your left leg is on top, your left arm is the bottom.
STANDING FORWARD FOLD
This posture provides a deep stretch for the hips, hamstrings and calves. It creates length in the spine, releasing tension in the low back. It’s also a simple inversion, which helps get blood flowing back to the upper body.
The Move: From a standing position, inhale and sweep your arms overhead. Keep your low belly engaged to help counteract arching your back. As you exhale, hinge from the hips and swan dive forward with your arms out like wings. Rest your hands on your suitcase, hold onto your ankles or place your palms on the floor. Let your head be heavy and relax your eyes.
To deepen the release in your back, bend your knees and rest your chest on your thighs. Add a shoulder stretch by bringing your arms behind your back, interlacing your fingers and letting your arms fall over your head.
This pose opens up the hips, groin, hip flexors and thighs, which makes it a great remedy after a 10-hour car ride or a trans-Atlantic flight
To come into full pigeon, begin in down dog. Step your right foot forward, placing your shin on your mat so that your right knee is behind your right wrist. Eventually, you may be able to rest your shin parallel to the top edge of your mat, but most of us make a diagonal with our leg so that our right foot is near our left hip.
Lower your back leg and hips to the ground. Walk your back leg out so that it extends directly behind your hip. Press the top of your left foot evenly into your mat.
Walk your hands to the mat next to your hips. Square your hips, making sure you’re not dipping to one side or the other. If you find there’s a gap between one hip and the floor, tuck a block or blanket under that glute for added support.
Deepen the pose by folding forward on an exhale. You can rest on your forearms or place your forehead on the mat.
To come out of the pose, walk your hands back to your sides. Curl your back toes under, engage your leg, press firmly into your hands, and step your right foot back to down dog. Take the pose on the other side.