Yoga for drivers: 5 stretches and poses to make long journeys easier

No matter how much you love your Lexus, bad traffic and stressful journeys can leave us all feeling frazzled – with knotted muscles, rising blood pressure, and a sluggish road-weary mind. But with a few simple yoga techniques and poses, you can face the tension with a poised body and calmer outlook. Next time you’re driving, check yourself: are your shoulders high or hunched, are you breathing shallowly? If so, try a couple of these tips – they should help you to feel more alert, relaxed and up-beat on the road.

Warrior Pose One

Rooted in strength and stability, this is a real power-pose – and will help to open your chest, deepen your breathing, and lengthen your legs and spine. Try it before you set off, or when you’ve stopped for a break at a service station.

1. Take a big step forwards with your left leg, and reach your arms up sideways and over your head – until your palms come together. Turn the left foot out by 45°, and the right foot out 90°.

2. Exhale, and lunge forwards. Bend into your left leg, making sure that the knee is in line with your middle toe.

3. Lift your chest up, and look up towards your hands. Keep your shoulders relaxed; this should be a natural stretch, not a strain.

4. Reverse the steps, and come back to standing. Repeat on the other side.

Mindful breathing

Yoga stretches can work wonders, but if your breathing is shallow you’ll still feel the pressure. Before you begin this exercise, fix your posture: whether seated or standing, make sure you’re not slouched or hunched up. Do not attempt it while driving.

1. Inhale slowly through your nose to the count of four, feeling your belly and body lift up with the breath. Pay attention to the feeling of your lungs being full (but not bursting), and hold here for a couple of counts if you feel comfortable. It may help to close your eyes.

2. Count to four as you gently exhale, either through your nose or mouth. As you do so, relax your shoulders and consciously ease any other areas of tension. Again, pay attention to the feeling of emptiness for a couple of counts, before repeating the cycle for 2-4 minutes more.

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Reverse Prayer Pose

This pose will invigorate your shoulders, chest and arm muscles, giving everything a good stretch. Try it after a long time in the drivers’ seat, while you’re getting some fresh air.

1. Stand tall with your feet slightly apart, arms at your side and shoulders relaxed.

2. Bending your knees a little, slowly raise your hands behind your back – with your palms together and your fingers pointing downwards.

3. As you inhale, turn your fingers inwards towards your spine, until they’re pointing upwards (still with your palms together). Stay in position for 20-30 seconds, focusing on your breathing.

4. Reverse the above actions until you are standing normally again.

Sitting twist

This simple exercise will help to keep your spine flexible and ease muscular tension – and can even be done in the car (though not, of course, while you are in control of the vehicle).

1. Facing forwards with your feet together, reach your left hand to the left side of the chair-back, and your right hand to the left side of the seat cushion.

2. Use your arms to pull your body into a left-facing twist, keeping your legs facing forwards.

3. Slowly turn your head to the left – but don’t strain. Relax the shoulders. Hold here for 3-5 breaths, and slowly release.

4. Repeat on the right side, and two further times on each side.

Modified Cat-Cow

A Cat-Cow is a gentle transition between two spine-stretching yoga poses – usually done on all-fours, on a mat. But it can be modified to practise while seated, too: another one to try in the car, perhaps, before or after your journey.

1. In your seat, align your feet hip-width apart and put your hands on your knees.

2. Take a deep inhale, slowly lifting your chest and chin, and pulling your shoulder blades down and back. Hold this for a second or two. (This is Cow Pose.)

3. As you exhale, slowly tuck in your chin and navel, curving your spine forwards and rounding your shoulders. Feel the stretch in the back of your neck. (This is Cat Pose.)

4. Repeat 3-5 times, paying attention to your breath.

Always consult your GP before starting any exercise programme. This article is not intended as health advice.

Image credit: Nandan Prabhu and Yoga by Kay

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