Travelasana: A Yoga Practice for Travel Recovery

Woman doing Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) during travel to the beach

Now that COVID-19 is on the wane, many of us are itching to leave our homes for new vistas. Whether we travel via car or plane, long hours of sitting can do a number on our bodies and minds.

If you’ve spent much time traveling in the past, this feeling will be quite familiar: the tightness and achiness, the strange feeling of being exhausted yet also having pent-up energy—we’ve just about all felt it. Luck would have it that yoga can directly work to alleviate all of these things. The practice can bring a greater feeling of space and freedom in the body, as well as a sense of calm energy. A yoga sequence with a balance of stretch and strengthening, moving the body in various ways, and keying into breath can expand and revitalize a travel-worn body.

The following sequence is designed to bring you back to your best after a long trip has you feeling a bit off. It can also fit into a hotel or guest room, where you may be staying after extended travel. You’ll feel more ready to nail that interview or important meeting, or simply enjoy your vacation to the fullest! Let’s jump into this sequence to reset your body after a long trip. As always, rest when your body tells you it needs it, and sharp pain is your body signaling you to stop what you’re doing. 

Warm Up Your Spine

Man doing Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose)

  1. Begin in Bharmanasana (Tabletop Pose), your shoulders lining up over your wrists and your hips over your knees. Feel your belly pulling in and up toward your back in order to keep your spine stable.
  2. Go through some Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Pose) flows. For your Cow Pose, feel your tailbone rise up and your belly dip. Look upward, your head and neck following the natural flow of your spine, as you take a deep breath in. For Cat Pose, feel your tailbone dip down and your spine arch upward. Let your head and neck release, and take a full breath out. Do 5 to 10 rounds (one round includes one Cat and one Cow). Man practicing Marjaryasana/Bitilasana (Cat/Cow Pose) flow
  3. Look back at your feet to the left, and then to the right. This will stretch out the sides of your torso (your “side-bodies”). Take 5 to 10 full rounds, with one round including a look to the left and then to the right. Keep breathing fully and deeply, perhaps coordinating it with your movements.
  4. Roll your ribcage in circles, like you’re creating the outline of a barrel. Take 5 to 10 rolls in each direction, continuing to breathe fully and deeply.
  5. From Tabletop Pose, dig your toes and the balls of your feet into the ground and lift your hips to the sky. This is Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose). Man practicing Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)

Standing Flow for travel recovery: Yoga to Build Heat

Man practicing Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) variation with chair at the wall

  1. From Downward-Facing Dog, jump, hop, or step forward to Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend Pose) (shown above with a chair). Breathe here for 5 to 10 breaths, keeping a soft bend in your knees and scooping your belly into your spine just slightly to help you to stay centered over your feet.
  2. On a breath in, reach up to the sky, arms moving out and up (or forward and up, if space side-to-side is limited). Press your palms together overhead, taking Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Hands Pose), and feel the strength in your arms. Hold that for a few breaths, while closing your eyes or fixing a soft gaze directly forward.
  3. For a shoulder stretch, bend your elbows and hold below the opposite elbow (in other words, the left hand holding below the right elbow and vice versa). Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, feeling your triceps spinning forward. To release, reach back up to the sky, palms spinning toward each other.
  4. Step your right foot back to set up Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose). Lower your hands down to the ground while transitioning, if you need to for stability. Either way, hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths, reaching your arms up to the sky. Woman practicing Anjaneyasana (Lunge Pose)
  5. Take your hands down to the ground, switching your feet so that the left foot is in front. If you want a little extra movement and rigor, take three “jump switches” (quick switches of the legs, changing which one is in front, almost a jump that stays stationary).
  6. Then reach up to the sky, back to Urdhva Hastasana, to take the pose on the other side, holding for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. Take your hands back down to the ground, and step your back (left) foot forward to Uttanasana. Relax there for a few breaths, taking any small movements that might feel good.
  8. Lower to a sitting position, using your hands for support if that’s helpful.

Seated Cooldown and Meditation

Woman practicing Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)

  1. From sitting, bring the bottoms of your feet together into Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), knees falling out to the sides. Feel rooted in your seat, yet lifted up through the top of your head.
  2. To take Parivrtta Baddha Konasana (Revolved Bound Angle Pose), reach your right arm up and then lower it and place your right hand on the ground or mat behind you on your right side. Make sure that you’re not reaching so far back that you’re leaning backward; it’s key here to keep your torso aligned over your pelvis. Take the back of your left hand to your right thigh (avoiding your right knee), in order to help deepen your twist.
  3. Breathe into your twist for 5 to 10 breaths, and release it to face back forward. Repeat the whole process from step #2 to twist to the left, taking your left hand behind you and the back of your right hand to your left thigh.
  4. After releasing the twist, face back to the center, and straighten your legs to extend them forward. Shake them out if that feels good. Take any other small movements that might feel good, such as moving your neck or stretching your face. Notice where any tension is, and try to breathe it out.
  5. On a breath in, grow tall through your spine. On a breath out, fold forward from your hips, the low belly meeting the upper thighs first and in that same order from there; think the way scissor blades close. Hold this pose, Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold), for 5 to 10 breaths. Man practicing Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Fold) with strap
  6. On a breath in, raise your spine up to sit up tall. Do so slowly and gently, so as to not get a dizziness-inducing rush of blood to the head. On a breath out, lie back, lowering your torso to your mat or ground below you.
  7. Let your legs lengthen out onto the floor, and your arms lengthen by your sides, to take a Savasana (Final Relaxation Pose) shape. If you prefer, place your legs in Baddha Konasana, placing the bottoms of your feet together.
  8. Rest here for as long as you need. If you find your mind wandering, try focusing on the sound of your breath. Allow yourself to feel released and expansive, your body wonderfully taking up space in the world.
  9. When you’re ready, roll onto your side before pushing up to a sitting position. Gently, mindfully, continue on with your day. Notice if you feel a new balance of calm and energy. Enjoy it!
Kathryn Boland, writer, yoga teacher

Kathryn Boland is an RCYT and R-DMT (Registered Dance/Movement Therapist). She is originally from Rhode Island, attended The George Washington University (Washington, DC) for an undergraduate degree in Dance (where she first encountered yoga), and Lesley University for an MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Expressive Therapies: Dance/Movement Therapy. She has taught yoga to diverse populations in varied locations. As a dancer, she has always loved to keep moving and flowing in practicing more active Vinyasa-style forms. Her interests have recently evolved to include Yin and therapeutic yoga, and aligning those forms with Laban Movement Analysis to serve the needs of various groups (such as Alzheimer’s Disease patients, children diagnosed with ADHD, PTSD-afflicted veterans – all of which are demographically expanding). She believes in finding the opportunity within every adversity, and doing all that she can to help others live with a bit more breath and flow!

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