It’s that time of year when you might be traveling by plane or hitting the road to visit loved ones. Traveling or even the busyness of preparing for holiday festivities at home can become stressful on the mind and body.
On a recent trip to Costa Rica, I found as many opportunities as I could to incorporate more yoga postures in order to minimize physical strain from sitting long hours on a plane and to help stretch my body before my adventures in exploring the beautiful country.
Carving 5-minutes to do one or perhaps all of the stretches below can help create a physical release and make you feel more relaxed. Happy stretching, and best wishes for a happy holiday season and new year!
Before exploring these suggested postures, please consult with your doctor, especially if you have any physical limitations or have had a recent surgery.
Benefits: Stretches hip flexors and psoas, with options to open your chest and shoulders.
Getting into the Pose: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, all your toes point forward. Place one foot back about 3 to 4 feet. You will know the appropriate distance for your body by having your front knee directly above your ankle while your back heel is comfortably reaching to the sky. All toes continue to point forward.
Place your hands on your hips to begin and maintain your hips parallel to the front area that you are facing. Shoulders remain stacked directly above your hips. Scoop in your lower belly to activate your transverse abdominal muscle, which will also help protect your lower back and aid in balance.
Squeeze both of your thighs together as you rotate your back thigh internally, which creates a sensation that your thighs are being magnetized toward one another. Continue to keep your front knee above your ankle and pointed forward. Option to straighten your back leg or instead, have a micro-bend in your back knee…explore which option is most comfortable for your body.
Reach the crown of your head energetically to the sky in order to create more length in your spine while keeping the back of your neck relaxed. Hands can continue to be placed on your hips while you energetically reach your elbows toward one another to open your chest. Continue to scoop your lower belly in.
Another option to further open your chest while also opening your shoulders is to interlace your hands behind your lower back, glue your palms together. Reach your knuckles energetically down while you keep your chin parallel to the earth. If accessible and comfortable on your body, you can then lift your hands away from your lower back area while keeping your palms glued. If you tend to hyperextend your arms, invite a slight micro-bend in your elbows.
Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch your other leg.
Benefits: Stretches quadratus lumborum muscle, which opens your abdominal wall and lower back area.
Getting into the Pose: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, all your toes point forward. Create grounding in your lower body by squeezing the front of your thighs to activate your quadriceps, all while keeping your knees soft. Have your tailbone neutral or reach it slightly down if you tend to arch your lower back.
Press into the four corners of your feet while keeping your toes soft. Place your hands by your side, palms face forward. Take a deep inhale as you reach your hands to the sky to open and create length in both of your side bodies, palms now face toward one another. Scoop in your lower belly and keep your abdominal wall squeezed to activate your muscles.
Have one hand softly grab your opposite wrist. Reach the fingers of your wrist that is softly being grabbed to the sky to continue stretching that side body and to create length from your hip area. Press into the outer edge of the foot on that same side that is being stretched in order to equally ground both of your feet. Then, reach your fingers to the opposite side. Option to look down in order to not strain your neck while you keep your lower belly engaged.
Continue to reach your fingers over as you breath into the areas between your ribs, focusing attention on your intercostal muscles. Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch the other side body.
Benefits: Stretches sides of neck, specifically your levator scapulae muscle, while opening your shoulders and chest.
Getting into the Pose: Same routine as the side bend in creating grounding in your lower body. Though, with different variations for your hands. Instead, reach one hand away from the side of your body, palm faces down. Have your hand in line with your side body to keep your shoulder neutral. Reach your fingers energetically down to the earth and slightly roll your shoulder back. With your other hand, lightly grab the opposite ear.
Scoop in your lower belly and slowly reach the ear that’s being lightly grabbed to the opposite shoulder. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together to open your chest. Keep on reaching your fingers energetically down to the earth, which may also stretch your bicep tendon.
Stay in this posture for 5-7 deep breaths, then switch sides to stretch the other side of your neck.