Travel and stress go together like almond butter and gluten-free toast: No matter how many deep breaths and “om nama shivayas” you think you can bring with you on your carry-on, traveling—especially during the holidays—comes with its fair share of upsets.
As a frequent traveler myself, I’ve experienced my fair share of missed flights, screaming babies, snoring neighboring passengers, and a set of inexplicable flight delays. And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, one tool that has always helped me to unwind and relax in just about any situation (and location) has been yoga: It helps me ground, breathe, and move my body in the areas that I tend to tense up the most when I’m filled with anxiety.
For this upcoming holiday season, I’m gifting you the opportunity to create some inner peace, whether you’re flying, driving, or walking over to the parents’ or in-laws’ house to share a meal and some family time. Here, I present you with a yoga sequence you can bookmark and take with you to practice this holiday season.
1. Neck rolls.
From a neutral neck position, on your exhale slowly dip your head to the right, rolling down through the center. On the inhale, roll head to the left side until upright once again in a neutral position. Repeat 5 to 10 times each direction, moving with the breath.
2. Seated shoulder stretches.
Using the press of your hands in toward the back of a chair (if you’re seated on a plane) or a wall if you’re standing, create an arch in the upper back. Inhale, extending the arms fully, if possible, and on the exhale, relax back to neutral. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
3. Seated or standing cat-cow.
Place your hands on the tops of your knees if you’re seated, or bend your knees to a mini-squat if you’re standing. Similar to a kneeling cat-and-cow sequence, inhale and create a backbend in the upper back and look forward or up, stretching the neck; exhale, rounding the spine and neck, tucking chin toward the chest. Repeat 10 rounds.
4. Side bends.
Preferably standing during a bathroom break if you’re on a plane, with arms extended, use the inhale to elevate the ribs, and the exhale to bend farther to the corresponding side. Repeat for five breaths on each side. As a bonus, use an overhead bin to press your hand into for a little assist.
5. Twisting chair.
Twisting for equal breaths on each side, use the inhale to extend the spine, and the exhale to twist deeper, squeezing and cleansing out the belly and inner organs.
6. Standing pigeon.
From standing, cross your right ankle over the left knee. Bending the standing leg, use a wall or corner for support.
7. Arm stretch extensions.
From a seated or standing position, on an inhale, extend energy outward through all 10 fingertips, pressing arms straight and strong. On an exhale, relax back to neutral. This simple yet complex exercise helps to release built-up tension in the joints, arms, and (in turn), the mind as well.
8. Breath retention and release.
Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Inhale as deeply as you can, keeping the arms and shoulders relaxed by your side. Hold the breath for 4 to 6 seconds, or as long as you choose. On the exhale, gently release all of the breath outward, with calm, control. Repeat 10 rounds, or longer if you wish. Safe travels!