FORTUNATELY, even within the confines of the car (or plane) there are things you can do that don’t require a lot of planning or space to keep the body open when you hit the open road. Here are my favourite ways to arrive happy.
We know the value of full diaphragmatic breathing, but did you know the car seat gives you great feedback for it? When I’m driving in between classes I practice diaphragmatic breathing, sending the breath into the belly and the kidney area in my back. If I feel this area pressing into the seat back I know I’m on track. Practicing the breathing like this is also brilliant to calm the mind if you’re stuck in traffic.
Yes really. Take a tennis ball or even better, two balls taped together or tied together in a sock. Place the balls, one on either side of your spine, between your back and the seat back. Lean back to apply pressure, rock a little side to side to access more spots of tension. Work your way down from the base of the neck to the lower back.
Another trick using the seat back is to do a little ab work and keep that lower back a bit happier. Practice pelvic tilts, think cat/cow but vertical. Tilt the hip bones back, flattening the lower back to the seat then tilt forward deepening the arch of the back.
Even when you’re the driver you can still twist it out a little. Keep one hand on the wheel, and both eyes on the road but use the other hand to help you twist the torso. If you’re the passenger, go the whole twist using the seat back to help.
Passengers can lean forward, reach back and grab the back of the seat at shoulder height. The driver could do one arm at a time.
This one is just for the passengers. Place one ankle above the other knee like you’re making the number 4 with your legs, then fold forward. If there is space, you could use the dashboard for a strange variation of pigeon or bound angle pose.
This one is just for the passenger too. Use the balls to roll the soles of the feet, this releases the whole back line of the body. Roll slow and for at least two minutes each foot.
If you’re stopping for a little while, before you crack open the picnic basket, take a moment. Roll out a travel mat, a towel or nothing at all depending on the location. The hip flexors will need some love so sink into some delicious low lunges, hero pose, even some mini back bends if you like. Any variation of inversion that works will be helpful to keep the driver alert too. The driver might like to do some hip openers here too, eagle, cow face and pigeon are all good for tired driver hips.
While stopped, swing arms and legs, reach the body side to side, any stretches required without being static. This will help get the blood flowing and the fascia hydrating, it will get the body out of ‘driver’ pose and feeling normal.
Last but by no means least, actually I think this is the best one, sing and dance to your favourite tunes while you drive. You may not be able to bust your usual dance floor moves but you can move a little and you will breathe deeply and smile and it will feel a whole lot better by the time you arrive. Little things can mean you enjoy the journey as much as you anticipate the destination.
Erin is a Gold Coast based Level 2 yoga and Pilates teacher, teacher trainer and exercise scientist. www.erinlbourne.com