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May 7, 2015

5 Essential Yoga Practices for Traveling Yogis.

Travel Yoga Photo - Elephant Journal

Your back aches, your hips are tight, and the passenger next to you simply does not understand your need for the armrest during your three-hour flight.

These are just a few of the symptoms of traveling for a living or for pleasure.

As a traveling yoga teacher myself, I find it necessary to keep my muscles warm at all times during short or lengthy adventures.

Sometimes that means walking around the terminal before takeoff, other times it’s doing a few simple poses in my seat on a long flight. Being proactive with your asanas (yoga poses) during travel will help prevent fatigue, stiffness and overall travel lag—not to mention it will help you keep your Zen during any unexpected delays.

Even the most practiced yogis can become victim to the constant changes, delays and unexpected challenges that sometimes accompany travel. Don’t miss these five yoga practices that will save you from your travel woes and ensure you’re running at 100 percent once you’ve reached your destination:

Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana)

Although most of us love to travel, I think we can all agree that flight delays, airport food and traffic jams at security can put anyone a bit on edge. This breathing technique not only calms your nerves, but also releases built up tension and fatigue that may have already been present.

Nadi Shodhana can seem complicated at first since your hands are doing two different things, but once you’ve got the basic setup ready, all you have to do is count your breaths in and out as a feeling of calm begins to sweep over you. Make sure to close your eyes while practicing this exercise as a way to cancel out the hum of busy travelers, screaming babies and boarding calls.

Feeling on edge? Check out how to easily practice this breathing technique here.

Eagle Pose Arms (Garudasana)

Eagle is an incredible bind. Although you can’t exercise the full expression of the pose while on a plane or in a car, just engaging your arms and lifting the elbows up towards the sky will give your shoulders, neck and back much needed relief.

You’ll feel an additional stretch if you lift your elbows up and push them together to lengthen the shoulders. Play around with lifting the elbows and pulling them down away from the ears to feel different sensations without bothering your fellow passenger’s peace.

Side note: Eagle arms also provides relief to the busy nine to five professional who hunches over a keyboard, whether at the desk or tray table, for the majority of their day.

Seated Spinal Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Nothing feels better after sitting in what seems like a small cardboard box for several hours than a spinal twist. This detoxifying and rejuvenating movement is simple and quick. If you are on a plane, just use the seat arms to aid in your twist. You can also utilize your thigh to get a bit of leverage, but make sure to sit up tall and lift your chest to the ceiling to get the most out of the seated spinal twist.

Cat/Cow Movement (Marjaryasana)

Another calming and refreshing movement, cat/cow will loosen your spine and help you to center your energy if you’re feeling stressed. Inhale and press your chest forward, lifting it towards the sky and arching your back while bracing your hands on your knees for cow pose. On your exhale, round your back and squeeze your bellybutton to your spine. Each inhale creates space for fresh air and a clear mind, while each deep exhale helps to draw your attention in and releases stress from a long day of travel.

Side note: If the front and back movement doesn’t give you the desired amount of relief you need, cat/cow can be expanded into a full rotation around the body. First, inhale and lift the chest as normal but continue the inhale as you slide over to the right or left. On the exhale squeeze the belly button to the spine and continue the rotation to left/right depending on which way you went. After a few rotations, change directions.

Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

The juiciest move of them all is Pigeon. Once again, this is a seated variation, but it gets into the hips just as well. Depending on your neighbor or transportation, you might find this one consumes a bit more space—but trust me, it will be worth the few moments of awkwardness. To accomplish a successful seat pigeon pose, place your ankle on your opposite thigh, inhale to lengthen and then exhale and hinge your torso over your hips. For even more space in the hips, press your bent knee outwards.

Next time you feel like throwing your boarding pass at the ticket counter agent or stealing away the armrest from your fellow passenger, remember these five movements. Your body and mind will thank you, not to mention you’ll probably avoid that awkward encounter with the Federal Air Marshal.
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Still feeling a bit tense? Try some other chair poses here:

Yoga for the Work Desk.

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Author: Sarah Barnes

Editor: Travis May

Photos: Author’s Own

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Sarah Barnes