Yoga While Traveling, A Practical Guide

By April 7, 2018 November 3rd, 2019 Yoga
Yoga While Traveling

It can be tough to do yoga while traveling. Hectic schedules, no dedicated space, food and sleep times all funky, and we’re likely more stressed and tired than usual. Who has time to stop, drop and flow?

In the past, yoga was one of the first things to go for me. I didn’t have the motivation for it when traveling.

Until I realized, it’s when our routines (and our lives!) are shaken up, that we can receive the most profound benefits from a dedicated yoga practice.

Yoga balance us when we’re unbalanced. It grounds, energizes, reduces stress, calms the mind. All the things that tend to be in shorter supply when we travel. Most importantly, yoga reconnects us to ourselves when we’re in unfamiliar territory.

So if you’ve been sitting on a plane, train, car, bus, boat (you name it) crammed for space and body all out of sorts, try these quick, simple exercises to decompress!

BEFORE YOU START:

The below practices are most beneficial when done in order. They’re sequenced to first warm up and then open the body. However use your discretion! If something is not accessible, no worries! Modify to where you are today. Most importantly, just focus on connecting your breath to your movements. And have fun!

1. Kapalabhati (Skull Shining Breath)

Breathing exercises (pranayama) are a foundational part of yoga. Even more important than the poses (asana) themselves. Since without our connection to breath, poses lack awareness. And awareness is everything in yoga.

Kapalabhati, a.k.a. Skull Shining Breath, is a powerful pranayama practice. It purifies, rejuvenates and invigorates the mind/body.

This cleansing breath can help release stress and toxins, as well as negative emotions (which are tougher to get to).

Kapalabhati consists of a series of forceful exhalations from the navel followed by passive inhalations. The breath is rapid, rhythmic and continuous. It should be forceful but not forced.

This is a powerful exercise, so start with shorter sessions and build up. And if at any point you feel lightheaded, take rest! Something’s shifting.

Start with 1 minute and build up to 3. Do not practice >3 minutes at a time unless you’ve been instructed by an experienced teacher.

How to:

  • Sit up tall, kneeling or cross-legged
  • Pelvic floor up, low belly in, chin slightly down
  • Inhale deeply, exhale completely
  • Inhale half way, and begin
  • Exhale OUT OUT OUT through your nose
  • Each time draw your navel IN to expel the exhale OUT
  • Focus on just the exhale, let the inhale come naturally
  • Active exhale, passive inhale
  • Keep the exhale short, sharp, consistent
  • Continue at a pace that you can maintain comfortably for 1 minute
  • After your final exhale, take an inhale and hold at the top
  • Soft focus, no straining
  • When you are ready, release the locks and exhale

2. Sun Salutation (Surya Namaskar A)

The Sun Salutation is an amazing way to safely warm up the body. It mobilizes the spine, improves circulation, aids in digestion, massages the inner organs, and oxygenates the blood.

Traditionally done at the beginning of a sequence, sun salutations are an essential part some of the most widespread asana lineages (like Ashtanga). They are a full practice in themselves.

So if you’ve been traveling/sitting most of your day, this is great to try!

Surya Namaskar A is a combination of 10 separate poses:

How to:

  • Stand tall, arms by your sides
  • Inhale arms up, look up
  • Exhale fold forward, weight forward
  • Inhale half lift, long spine
  • Exhale place hands by your feet, step or hop back to upper push up plank
  • Inhale arch the spine, look up, upward facing dog
  • Exhale push the floor away, downward facing dog
  • Stay in down dog for 5 counts, smooth + steady breath
  • Gently bend the knees, glance forward, and walk or hop your feet to your hands
  • Inhale half lift
  • Exhale fold forward
  • Inhale arms up, look up
  • Exhale arms down by your sides
  • Repeat 3x

3. Half Moon (Ardha Chandrasana)

Continuing with a focus on the spine, Half Moon is a wonderful way to gently stretch the body in all 4 directions. Each side should be held for ~30 seconds, at the edge of your comfort zone — where you find challenge but can maintain steady breath. If at any point the breath becomes strained, ease off a bit. Poses without breath ≠ yoga ?

How to:

  • Stand tall, feet together, arms by your sides
  • Inhale arms up, interlace fingers into a steeple grip
  • Find the center of each foot, press down. Contract thighs, draw low belly in
  • Inhale reach up
  • Exhale bend right. Create a crescent shape with your entire body, stay + breathe for 30s
  • Inhale back to center, reach up
  • Exhale bend left. Connect the line from your heels up your spine through your fingertips, stay + breathe for 30s
  • Inhale back to center, reach up
  • Exhale reach your fingertips away from your armpits and gently move up, over and back. Keep the weight in your heels, stay + breathe for 30s
  • Inhale back to center, reach up
  • Exhale hinge forward, biceps by the ears, firm belly, long spine
  • Place hands at the back of your calves, shift weight forward, low belly in, stay + breathe for 30s
  • Inhale come up, biceps by the ears
  • Exhale release arms down by your sides

4. Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

Twists are wonderful towards the end of a practice (or anywhere in between really!). A seated twist helps neutralize the spine and brings the body back to center. Also improves digestion and relieves back pain, which is handy when traveling.

How to:

  • Transition to sit right leg over left, bottom leg straight or bent (whichever position is most comfortable for you)
  • Place right hand behind your seat, use your right arm to support a straight spine
  • Keep weight over your sits bones
  • Inhale left arm up and reach up and over your right knee
  • Place left hand on your bottom knee, or grab for clothing, adjust to your level of depth for today
  • Draw your chin toward your right shoulder, look right
  • Remember — depth is not important, focus on alignment + breath
  • Keep weight over your sits bones, low belly in, chest open as you twist
  • Every inhale lengthen through your spine
  • Every exhale twist a little more
  • Change, switch your legs
  • Left over right, bottom leg out or in (try to keep it consistent on both sides)
  • Place left hand behind your seat
  • Inhale right arm up and reach up and over your left knee
  • Grab a hold of your bottom knee or modify
  • Draw your chin toward your left shoulder, look left
  • Keep weight over your sits bones, low belly in, chest open as you twist
  • Every inhale lengthen through your spine
  • Every exhale twist a little more
  • Change, come back to center

5. Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

Now body is warmed and prepped for an inversion + deep backbend to close – wheel!

An inversion is a pose where the heart is held above the head. Inversions benefit the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems.

Wheel in particular stretches the shoulders and hip flexors, opens up the accessory muscles used in breathing, and targets the front line of our body which includes our heart. Like any backbend, wheel is a vulnerable pose, a heart opener. If you’re new, start with bridge and see how that goes (in video below)! Over time this pose becomes more comfortable, and is an awesome way to connect to your whole body at the end of a practice.

How to:

  • Start on your back, knees up, arms long by your sides
  • Exhale press through your heels and lift you hips up into bridge pose
  • Contract your thighs and glutes to draw tailbone up, keep low belly in
  • Stay in bridge and breathe for 5 counts
  • You can stay and breathe here, or transition into full wheel
  • Bend your elbows and place hands, palms down, by your head
  • Press down through your hands and lift up onto the crown of your head, take a few breaths
  • As you are ready, exhale lift your head off the floor and straighten your arms
  • Stay + breathe for 5 counts (or as long as you can do so comfortably)
  • If this is comfortable, walk your hands in to your feet
  • Continue to press your hands down, press your feet down, contract your thighs, lift tailbone up, keep low belly in
  • When you are ready to come out, gently lower your head to the ground and reverse your actions

To close, find your way into Savasana. Lie on your back, arms and legs outstretched. Close your eyes. Slow your breath. Relax your body. Let yourself sink into the ground. Allow your practice to absorb. Stay with yourself in this peaceful stillness for 1 – 3 minutes.

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