In my late teens and early twenties, I could sit for multiple hours on planes, trains or buses and emerge feeling rested and ready to explore. However, during my last two trips, I noticed that it has become harder to “bounce back” after spending 8+ hours wedged into a seat, trying to nap while the guy next to me kept me awake. It was also this time in my life that I started to experience back pain, even when I wasn’t traveling. I took up yoga in hopes of easing the pain and regaining some flexibility. Little did I know how helpful it would be while traveling internationally as well. Here are three of my favorite simple stretches and poses.
This is a great exercise for relieving lower back pain caused by long flights. Lie on the ground and put your knees up with your feet flat on the ground. Relax your neck and shoulders. Tilt the base of your pelvis up to the sky, flattening the lumbar (lower back) on the ground. Repeat 15-20 times and keep your breathing deep and steady.
Cat Cow Stretches
These stretches are wonderful for relaxing the entire back after a long flight or train ride. Get down on all fours so that your back creates a tabletop. Keeping your arms straight, inhale and lower your stomach toward the floor as you reach your head up to the sky. This will create a concave arch in your back, much like the sway back pose of a cow. Be sure to keep your stomach muscles engaged, but not clenched. Next, exhale, draw your belly button into your spine (this is the mental image you should have) and let your head hang toward the ground. In this position, you’ll look like a cat arching his or her back. Repeat, following the natural rhythm of your breath.
Seeing someone in Mountain Pose may look like they are just standing there. In actuality, the body is realigning and toning itself, something that is much needed after a long flight or train ride. To achieve Mountain Pose, stand with your big toes touching. Allow your toes to fan out to create a solid base for your pose and consciously balance your weight over all four corners of your feet. Engage your thigh muscles (quadriceps) and feel them draw upward. Slightly rotate your thighs inward and tuck your pelvis in, creating a straight back. Engage your abdominals and draw in your belly. Feel your collar bones widen and roll your shoulders back so that they are parallel to your pelvis- your shoulder blades should slide down your back. The top of your head should feel like it is rising toward the sky, creating a long neck.
Enjoy your new-found sense of wellness and get out there and explore!
Written by Jen Westmoreland Bouchard for EuropeUpClose.com