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The Car Stretches and Yoga Poses to Try on Your Next California Road Trip
Health & Fitness

The Car Stretches and Yoga Poses to Try on Your Next California Road Trip

These car stretches focus on the areas that get stiff when seated for long periods of time, helping you get through road trips pain-free.

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5 min read

June 29, 2021

Your palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy—you’ve been driving for who knows how long, and you just have to park to stretch your legs for a bit. Skip those outdoor workouts and say namaste to road trip yoga; it’s all the rage with fitness bloggers nowadays anyways. These car stretches focus on the areas that get stiff, tight, and achy when seated for long periods of time, helping you get through your summer road trip pain-free. And the best part is, you don’t have to bend over backwards (get it?) to successfully try these poses. Life behind the wheel is about to get a whole lot more pleasant.

The lotus position s an ancient asana in yoga, predating hatha yoga, and is widely used for meditation in Hindu, Tantra, and Buddhist traditions.

The Road Trip Poses You’ll Love 

Lotus Pose 

Do your hips and inner thighs get sore when you sit too long in one position? Perfect this seated leg stretch and help ease that ache. Place the outside of your right foot on top of your left thigh and close your groin. If you’re a beginner, you can hold that pose for eight to 10 breaths. Then stretch out one leg at a time and repeat. This is called half Lotus.

However, if you want to level up, try carefully bringing up your left foot over your shin and placing it on your right thigh. Rest the backs of your hands gently on your knees, thighs, or lap, whichever you fancy. Straighten your back and start holding for as many breaths as possible—congratulations, you’ve unlocked the full lotus pose.

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Crescent Moon Pose 

The crescent moon pose helps stretch the muscles located at the front of your thighs and it’s also the best yoga for back pain. Sit straight up, raise your hands above your head, breathe in, and try to grab your right wrist. If your car does not have enough space for this position, try and hold on to your right elbow and put your arms in a fold. Breathe out and lean left from your rib cage.

In order for the crescent moon pose to work its magic, make sure your hips stay level and only lean as far as is comfortable for you. Hold the position for a few breaths and then return to the center when you inhale. Breathe out, give your muscles a breather, and then lean to the other side.

The neck roll is a dynamic stretching exercise that relaxes and stretches the neck muscles and the cervical spine.

Neck Rolls 

People often hold tension in their neck and shoulders, and being stuck in a long drive (no matter how scenic) certainly doesn’t help. If you want to loosen up, simply roll your head from one side to another. This might seem like child’s play, but trust us—this is road trip yoga 101. 

Sit straight and tuck your chin towards your chest, rolling your shoulders back and down. Move your head to the right with your right ear facing your shoulder. To intensify the effect, try pushing your right-hand fingertips above your left ear, and the left-hand fingertips against your left shoulder. Pull very gently in opposite directions and hold this pose for approximately seven or eight breaths. 

Twisting postures help tone the belly, massage internal organs, and can help relieve lower back pain.

Seated Spinal Twist

While the Golden State’s road trips are as fun as fun can get, constantly sitting in the same position can put a strain on your spine. Remedy that with a simple seated side stretch right at your dashboard. Take the back of your hand and place it on the middle of your spine. Then, turn your body towards that arm as far as possible. If you’ve placed your left hand on your back, that means you’ll be rotating your body in a way that lets your right shoulder move to the right. Do this slowly and gradually. Once you’re done with one side, repeat it on the other.

Seated Half Lord of the Fishes Pose 

Do your hips lie? What about your neck and shoulders? Sounds like you desperately need this car stretch. Inhale and sit with your back straight—keep your shoulders away from your ears. Cross one leg over the other and place your arm behind you. This is the kind of exercise you can do anytime, whether leaning on the headrest or outside your seat. Keep exhaling while turning your chest and abdomen to the right, moving one shoulder forward and the other one back.

Your left elbow goes on the outside of your right knee—palm facing out and at a 90-degree angle. If your legs are not crossed at this moment, remember to put your hand (palm facing out) on the outside of your knee. Hold for a few breaths and let your chest fully expand; your spine will thank you later.

The seated forward fold is used in modern yoga as exercise and has several variations that help different muscles.

Seated Forward Fold 

If you’re looking for yoga poses for lower back pain, this one’s for you. The seated forward fold is probably a pose you’ve done a hundred times at your P.E. class, so it’s no rocket science to master it. Place both feet flat on the floor so there’s a hip-width between them. If your car seat has more room, try reaching for the floor with your hand and keeping your back as flat as possible. Push your torso forward and drop your head at the end to give your neck room to stretch. In case you’re not an expert gymnast, try doing this pose with your arms and head on the dashboard. Not only does this pose loosen up the tension in your lower back and neck, but it also does wonders for your hamstrings.

Benefits of the eagle pose include strengthening and stretching the ankles and calves, improving the sense of balance, as well as concentration.

Eagle Pose 

The bald eagle is the national symbol, and given this pose, it’s for good reason. The eagle pose stretches your hips, shoulders, thighs, ankles, calves, and upper back. Sit with your back straight and put your arms in front of your face—use your elbows to bend at a 90-degree angle. Put your right elbow under your left one and interlock your arms in a way that allows your palms to touch.

If this seems a bit difficult, there’s an easier way to master the eagle pose. Give yourself a hug, put your hands on your shoulders, and keep them away from your ears. From there, push your elbows further away, keeping your upper arms as parallel to the floor as possible.

Seated Sun Salutations 

Seated sun salutations are typically practiced in the morning to prepare your body and mind for the road trip, but there’s no harm in doing it in the middle of your journey. For this pose, inhale and stretch your arms as high as you can. Exhale and interlock your hands in the prayer position, letting them fall close to your side. Inhale once more, and lean forward into a forward fold, keeping your back as straight as possible. If you need a moment to relax, let out a few breaths and crank up your road trip playlist, before returning to a seated position with your arms sliding along your sides and into the air.

The mountain pose has been used as the basis for several other standing asanas in yoga. All you have to do is stand with your feet together.

Mountain Pose 

This car stretch is an easy one. All you have to do is close your eyes and simply focus on your breath. Then sit up straight—your palms up—and place your hands either at your side or on top of your legs. Feel your body revive as your shoulders fall down from the crown of your head, and exhale.

Next, you’re going to want to tilt your head to the left in order to feel the stretch in your neck. Breathe in, bring your head back to the center, and breathe out while tilting your head to the right.

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