Travel can be hard on the body. You know what I mean. Stiff neck from falling sleeping with your head at a weird angle (even with a neck pillow!) Sore back and shoulders from sitting in the awkward seats. Tight legs and hips from sitting too long. Hands and feet feeling heavy. The interesting thing is that you can feel much of the same after playing tourist and being on your feet all day. Go figure.
So what can you do about it? One word: stretch. The below are some easy stretches* you can do while en route or in your accommodations — no yoga mat necessary. These travel yoga stretches are also great to do after exploring all day. Particularly #9 — it’s the best!
Self-care doesn’t have to be intense, it just needs to be done.
*Though these stretches are all gentle, if you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions, it’s important to check in with your doctor(s) before trying any new physical activities.
1. Quad Stretch
Why: Sitting for long periods of time can cause tightness in the hip flexors and quads.
Using your suitcase handle, wall or the back of a chair for balance, shift your weight over to the right foot. Keeping the legs together, bend your left knee so that you can reach behind you with your left hand to grab your left ankle or top of foot. Gently bring the heel towards your bum and say hello to your quads and hip flexors! Hold for 10-20 seconds and switch to the other leg. Repeat 2-3 times on each side. (If you want to get a bit deeper into your hip flexors, a runner’s lunge is fantastic, but perhaps a bit showy in the airport.)
2. Neck Stretch
Why: If you slept on the plane, you’ll feel why. A neck pillow does only so much!
Slowly tilting the head from side to side (holding for 5-10 seconds on each side) or doing some slow neck rolls are brilliant and gentle ways to stretch the sides of the neck.
Remember to also gently shake the head from side to side and nod the chin up and down a few times to get into the front and back of the neck. Always be gentle. Despite the neck’s strength in supporting the heaviest part of our body (the head), it’s also one of the most delicate parts of the body.
3. Shoulder Rolls
Why: Helps get the kinks out of the neck and shoulders.
Roll the shoulders up back and down. Do this slowly, taking the time to get into the tightness between the neck and shoulders. After as many as you like, reverse directions, bringing the shoulders up, forward and down.
Top Tip: If you spend much of your time at a computer, all of these stretches can be done at the office! Schedule stretch breaks in your calendar — your body will love you for it.
4. Ankle Rolls
Why: The edge of your seat at the back of your knees can slow down circulation, so it’s important to keep things moving.
Take your shoes off and roll your ankles around. (I like to spell the alphabet with my feet, but that’s just me!) This also beneficial to do while on the plane.
5. Jazz Hands and Wrist Rolls
Why: Like with the legs, circulation in the arms can also be affected by sitting for a long time.
Put your hands up in the air and spread the fingers wide. Roll the wrists around. If you’re doing this on the plane or in the airport, don’t worry about looking silly, you are doing something good for yourself.
6. Doorway Stretch
Why: Travelling can slouch us over a little bit with the seats and hauling around of luggage. Opening up the pecs and fronts of the shoulders will feel fantastic after all of that.
Stand with your hand flat on a doorjamb or the wall. Pretend your body is a door and ‘open’ it away from the hand. Hold for 10-20 ten seconds and switch sides. Repeat. Another way to open up the shoulder and chest is is to stand in a doorway with your hands placed inside the doorjamb at shoulder height. Gently lean forward and feel your shoulder blades come together on your back, Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 2-3 more times.
7. Seated Twist
Why: Twists are good for spinal health, keeping the waist trim, and can also help with digestion.
Sitting tall with the feet flat on the ground, turn your upper body to the right, holding the right armrest or side edge of the seat. Take a deep breath and as you exhale, pull your navel into your spine and use your hands to gently deepen your twist. Hold for 2-3 breaths (inhale to lengthen, exhale to come further into the twist) and come back to the centre. Repeat on the other side.
8. Forward Fold
Why: Forward fold is an excellent way to loosen up the hamstrings and decompress the spine.
Make sure to keep a bend in the knees to support the lower back. This stretch can be done standing or seated. If you want to also get into the hips and glutes, sit in a chair and cross your ankle at your knee. Lean forward and let the head relax. (Make sure to do both sides.) Sitting on the floor with your legs in a diamond shape and leaning forward from the hips will stretch both hips at the same time.
9. Legs Up the Wall
Why: This is a really wonderful way to decompress the spine, increase circulation, and make feet feel less heavy. (This is my ABSOLUTE FAVOURITE thing to do after a day at work or travelling!)
Either on the floor or on your bed, scooch your lower body flush with the wall. Roll onto your back and extend your legs your legs up the wall. (There’s no way to be graceful about this. Don’t worry about it.) Bend your knees as much as needed to support the lower back. Placing a pillow or cushion under the lower back also feels nice. Arms can be by your side with palms facing up, or hands resting on your belly. Lifting the hands up in the air while doing this also feels good. You will feel the blood moving from your hands and feet back down to the heart. If you feel some tingling, bend the knees and elbows a bit. To come out of this pose, walk your feet down the wall, hug your knees, and roll over to your side. (For a more info on this yoga posture, click here.)
10. Walk Around
Why: Sitting for a long period of time, whether at high altitude or not, isn’t great for your circulation or your hip flexors.
Walking up and down the plane aisle every 1-2 of hours and going for a walk once you’ve gotten settled in your hotel room are low-impact but effective ways to get your blood pumping and muscles moving. If you’re on a road trip, make frequent pit/photo stops to break up the sitting time.
Shop my look: My white skinnies are from last year and they are amazing quality at a #getthrifty price — click the below photo or here!
Thanks to Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton – Downtown Vancouver (111 Robson Street) for partnering with me on this post and for my original post at InsideVancouver.ca!
Photos: Jana Josue | JJosue Photography
“Be grateful for what you already have. Set aside the time to take care of yourself, too.” ~ Mandy Ingber