Five poses to help you feel great during and after travel

After a long ride in the car or on the plane, your hips, hamstrings, and low back may be begging for some TLC. To smooth out the kinks, work these five poses into your travel plans.

On the road:

Rag doll   Rag doll is great for releasing the low back and gently opening the upper hamstrings. Because it requires no mat and very little space, this pose is extra handy for roadside pitstops.

Start with your feet hip-width apart and your big toes facing 12 o’clock. Bend your knees slightly and hinge at the waist to fold forward; round the back slightly and allow the torso to hang heavy. Hold opposite elbows or triceps and tuck your chin toward your chest. Straighten the knees if you like, or keep them bent. Hold this position for 5-10 breaths. Release slowly by unfurling the spine one vertebrae at a time and coming to stand.

Raised lunge 

Sitting for hours on end usually leads to tight, uncomfortable hips. The culprits? Your hip flexors, which have been flexed at 90-degree angles for an extended period of time. Loosen those muscles with a few raised lunges, using a bathroom counter to provide height and leverage.

Place your right foot on the edge of a counter, with the middle of your foot meeting the edge of the counter. Lean into your right leg and squeeze your left glutes to help release your left hip flexors. You may feel the muscles in your left hip open and relax. Hold for as long as you like and then switch sides; repeat once more on each side.

At your destination:

Once you’ve reached your destination, take a few minutes to further relax tight hips, glutes, and hamstrings. You’ll want to be on a mat or carpet to help cushion your joints. Move deliberately in these poses, as overexertion after a period of inactivity can lead to injury. You can help warm up your muscles by doing five to ten sun salutations.

Lizard pose

 Linger in this pose to help open your hips. Adjust your arms and your back leg to increase or decrease the stretch in your hips; using straight arms and a bent back knee de-intensifies the stretch while lowering to the forearms and raising your back leg intensifies the stretch.

Start in a basic lunge on your right side with your right knee stacked over your right ankle and your hands on either side of your front foot. Square your hip pointers, point your tailbone straight down, and sink into the hips. Lift your back leg for a more intense stretch in your right hip flexor, or lower your knee to the floor for less intensity. Walk your right foot slightly outward, so your right knee and foot are now a couple of inches on the outside of your right hand. Next, turn your right toes outward 45 degrees and breathe deeply as you sink your hips once again. To deepen the stretch in your hips, bend your arms or come to rest on your forearms. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the opposite side.

Rock the baby pose 

Try this pose to help release gluteal muscles that have accumulated tension during travel. 

Begin in seated with your legs outstretched. Bend your right leg, and bring your heel closer to your hips. Raise your right leg so that your thigh and shin form a right angle, and your shin runs parallel with the floor. Cradle your shin in your right arm, using your left hand to stabilize your foot. Straighten your spine. Gently rock your raised leg for a moment, then find stillness as you bring your shin closer to your chest. Hold for 5-10 breaths and repeat on the left side.

Seated forward fold  Like rag doll, seated forward fold releases the low back — but with the added benefit of stretching out hamstrings that been flexed all day in a seated position.

Begin in seated, with your legs extended. Inhale and lift your arms skyward, separating the space between your ribs as you lengthen the spine. Exhale and hinge at your hips to fold forward. Allow your torso to drape over your legs, bending your knees slightly or significantly to facilitate the fold. To further release your low back, engage the muscles in your low belly by drawing your navel toward your spine. Let your hands fall to the outsides of your feet, shins, knees, or thighs as you fold. Hold for 5-15 breaths.

Enjoy these hip-opening, hamstring-lengthening, low-back-releasing poses on your next journey out of town. Don’t forget to check back on Friday for a quick yoga flow that’s perfect for tight hotel spaces.

Happy traveling — namaste!

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