Yoga Poses to Unwind After a Long Road Trip

A Girls Guide To Cars | Yoga Poses To Unwind After A Long Road Trip - Oksana Taran 4Bg1Ykrfnd8 Unsplash 2

Sore after a long, hard drive? We’ve got you covered.

I know how rough you can feel after a long road trip or even after a track day: sore back, chest, arms, legs, and even abs. But don’t worry—I’ll run you through some much-needed relief.

Here, I’m going to run you through some basic yoga poses that are as simple as they are effective. You don’t have to be a yoga master to do these poses, nor do you even need to be physically fit. Yoga is about stretching to the exact point where you feel comfortable and not any farther. Many of these poses are for beginners and do not need to all be done every time you need a stretch after a long drive. You can pick and choose what you need based on what bit needs the most TLC!

I’ve separated them out into basic flows that will help you move from one pose to another, but with the exception of the sun salutation, they’re not traditional flow patterns, since this is just for simple stretching purposes!

The best part about these yoga poses is that they can be done before or after your drive, or when you stop while on the road. They’re quick, easy, and you’ll feel so much better after.

Cat-Cow Flow (Marjaryāsana-Bitilāsana)

Great For: Back and chest

This is another simple but effective flow which consists of only two poses: cat and cow. In both, you start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position with a flat back and a neutral spine, which means you aren’t craning your neck.

To move into cat, push away from the floor, arch your back into a nice curve, and drop your chin into your chest. You should look like a scared cat arching its back. To move into cow, drop your belly, lift your ribcage between the gates of your arms, and look up toward the ceiling or sky. Then, you can move back into cat. Inhale into cow, exhale into cat. This is a great way to warm up.

Sun Salutation Flow (Surya Namaskar)

Great For: the whole body

A sun salutation is a foundational yoga flow. A flow is, essentially, moving from one pose to another, and a sun salutation is one of the most simple flows. It consists of eight poses, each of which are very simple to execute. It’s a great way to move your whole body and stretch everything out. We’ll run you through the basic poses and also include a video of what it should look like all put together.

  • Step one: mountain pose (tadasana). Start by standing with your feet either touching or hip’s distance apart. You can let your arms rest by your side or hold them in front of your heart in a prayer position.
  • Step two: raised arms pose (urdhva hastasana). Inhale, then bring your arms out to the side and raise them up to the ceiling in a circular motion. Lift your chin to look at your hands.
  • Step three: forward bend (uttanasana). Now, exhale. Swim your arms down and try to touch your toes. You don’t actually have to, but that’s the movement you’re aiming for! You can also switch it up by placing your feet onto the palms of your hands to stretch out your wrists or by grabbing your elbows and hanging.
  • Step four: flat back pose (ardha uttanasana). Inhale. Draw your body up and put your hands on your shins. You want to flatten your back here, bending at the hips.
  • Step five: plank. Exhale. Place your palms flat on the floor and step back into a plank position. Your shoulders should be aligned over your hips, and your body should be a flat line from your head down to your does (which means, don’t let your hips sag or pop up toward the sky). Inhale.
  • Step six: chaturanga dandasana: As you exhale, you can lower down as if you were doing a pushup. You can also put your knees down here in your plank and perform the same pushup motion.
  • Step seven: upward facing dog (urdhva mukha svanasana).  Inhale. Come onto the tops of your feet and press yourself up with your hips and thighs off the floor but with your back in an arch as you look at the sky. You can also do a low cobra pose here, where you come entirely onto your stomach and your chest off the floor only.
  • Step eight: downward dog (adho mukha svanasana). Exhale. Now, press yourself backwards into an upside-down V shape. Basically, downward dog is what would happen if you lifted your butt into the air from plank pose. You can bend one leg and then the other if you need to stretch out your hamstrings.

You can repeat this flow by stepping between your hands after downward dog, inhaling into forward bend, exhaling into flat back pose, inhaling into raised arm pose, and exhaling into mountain pose.

Any of these poses, on their own, can be great for stretching specific parts of the body. If a stretch feels nice and you want to stay there longer, do it!

Standing Flow

Great For: Full body

Standing poses generally work a large part of your body; they are, however, generally more difficult poses, since you’re working more of your body. I’ve selected a few simpler poses here that will stretch you out but not get you too sweaty.

Start in mountain pose, then widen your legs so that they’re wider than hip’s width. We’ll start with wide-legged forward bend (prasarita padottanasana A). Hinge forward at your hips and place your hands on the floor—or, if you can’t do that, reach for the ground as far as you can. If you can bend forward all the way, you can rest the top of your head on the ground. Rest here, then put your hands on your hips and raise up.

Next, interlace your fingers behind your back and stretch your arms behind you while also bending forward. This is prasarita padottanasana C, which means it’s a variation of the wide-legged forward bend. This one stretches our your shoulders and chest.

Rise up, breathe, then lower down again into prasarita padottanasana A again, but instead of reaching both hands to the ground, move one hand to the middle, and then lift the opposite hand up to the sky for a twist. Return both hands to the middle, then swap sides.

Stomach Flow

Great For: Stomach/back, chest, and arms

These poses are done from a resting position lying on your stomach, and they’re great for stretching out your abs, back area, and arms. Let your forehead rest on the ground or on your arms and breathe.

Now, swim your arms back alongside your hips, exhale, and raise your chest and legs off the ground, grounding down through your pelvis, belly, and lower ribs for locust (salabhasana). Keep your gaze forward; don’t crunch your neck.

Come back onto your stomach and rest. If you can move into bow (dhanurasana), begin with the same position as locust, then grab your ankles. Press your feet into your hands while also pulling back on your ankles. It can be challenging to reach your feet; if you can’t, either repeat locust or just skip bow.

Come back onto your stomach and rest. Now, bring your elbows under your shoulders with your hands flat on the floor. Push against the earth and raise your chest, looking  forward, for sphinx (salamba bhujangasana).

Each of these poses should stretch out your chest and shoulders while also strengthening your back. In bow pose, you may feel a stretch in the front of your thighs.

We’ll end in child’s pose (balasana). Lift off your stomach into table, then press back so that the weight of your body is resting on your folded legs and that your forehead is resting on the ground. You can take your legs wider and bring your body between your thighs if that feels more comfortable. You can also leave your arms pressed forward for extended child’s pose, bring your hands back alongside your legs for regular child’s pose, or rest your head on your hands. This will stretch out your back and abs.

Supine Flow

Great For: Legs and hips

Supine poses are poses you perform lying on your back. They’re often great for legs and hips, since it allows you to stretch out your lower body without putting any weight on your legs. They’re also great for resting!

Start with supine pigeon (supta kapotasana). Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and knees raised. Place one ankle on the top of the other knee. Then, reach through your thighs and pull both legs forward by holding onto your bent leg’s shin or thigh. For a deeper hip stretch, press your elbow into the thigh of the leg that’s crossed over the other. Swap legs after you feel you’ve stretched out. If this pose causes knee pain, stop immediately and skip it.

Bring both feet back to the floor. Then, drop your legs to one side while keeping your back as flat to the floor as possible. This is a supine spinal twist (supta matsyendrasana), and it should feel nice on your back.

Bring both feet back to the floor. Bend your legs and draw them onto your chest, then hold onto the inside sole of your flexed feet, pulling your knees down into your armpits. You can rock side to side, which releases the back. This is known as happy baby (ananda balasana)—which is exactly what it looks like.

Now, it’s time for our final resting pose: corpse (savasana). Rest fully on your back with your legs extended. Let your feet flop open, and face your palms to the sky. Close your eyes and rest.

Remember: It’s Not About the Pose

My favorite late online yoga teacher, Lesley Fightmaster, had a saying she liked to use in almost all of her classes: “It’s not about the pose, and you don’t have to be perfect.” Basically, your goal is to move your body in a way that feels good and to the point where you feel a nice, comfortable stretch. If you feel pain, stop. If you can’t go into the fullest expression of a pose, that’s fine. Your goal is to feel good and stretch out your body!

I'm Elizabeth Blackstock, managing editor of AGGTC, blogger, journalist, novelist, editor, MA/MFA graduate student, wife, motorsport fanatic, and bearer... More about Elizabeth Blackstock