Travel. For many, travel comes in spurts (think holidays or that vacation you’ve been saving up for), but for athletes it can be a constant source of misery while in season. Whether you are sitting on a bus or on a plane, travel can take a serious toll on your body. For most of us, taking care of our posture is thrown out the window. We instead experiment with every which position, looking for that sweet spot to hold for the next fifteen minutes, before the squirming begins anew, and we resign ourselves to a scrunched mess. This usually means that our shoulders start hunching forward as our back rounds into a weird seated fetal position. So where does yoga come in?
Think of yoga as a great way for you to repair your body from the damage that the claustrophobic position you adopt while on the road causes. The goal is to restore your body back to it’s pre-travel condition feeling refreshed, relaxed, and mobile. This does not mean that you have to take a one-hour yoga class; in fact, taking 5-15 minutes to do a few strategic stretches can go a long way.
Here are four poses you can do in your hotel room to get you back in prime shape from those long hours on the road:
Why: This pose gently stretches your low back and brings space and mobility back into your spine. The spinal compression and stiffness that occurs from sitting for long periods of time is exacerbated by any hunching of your shoulders or maintaining a misaligned body for a long period of time.
How: Drop down to your hands and knees with the tops of your feet flat. Make sure your wrists are in line with your shoulders and your knees are in line with your hips. From here, inhale and drop your belly down towards the ground as you reach your chest and sit bones up towards the ceiling. Then exhale and press your hands against the floor as you arch your back up towards the sky while you drop your head and sit bones down towards the ground. Do 3-5 sets of cat/cow.
Modified Pigeon Pose
Why: This is a big pose for your hips. Healthy and mobile hips are crucial in maintaining speed and agility on the field as you cut back and forth in different directions. When you travel your hips tend to tighten up, not only from the tension the builds from physically sitting in the same position for so long, but also the mental fatigue that occurs while traveling.
How: From your hands and knees extended your left leg back, then move you right foot to the left as far as you can. Then drop your left knee down so that it sits right behind your right ankle. From here slowly shift your hips back and slightly to the right. You should feel a great stretch along your right hip and glutes. Hold for 30-60 seconds and switch sides.
Low Lunge with Spider Man Arms
Why: Sitting for long periods of time shortens your hip flexors which are critical to lifting your knee up towards your chest. This pretty much happens all the time in soccer, whether your are running or kicking the ball. Tight hip flexors can also increase risk of straining your hamstrings. Since soccer players already tend to have relatively tight hip flexors, the added tension from hours on the road can be mitigated with a simple stretch once you have arrived at your destination.
How: From standing, drop your hands to the ground and slowly step your left foot back dropping the knee down to the floor. Make sure your front right knee is above your ankle and walk your hands up to your right knee lifting your head up towards the ceiling. Add the “spider man arms” (see above) by first stepping your right foot out to the right (just a step or two), and then dropping your hands to the ground and slowly walking them out at an angle to the right. This will give you an added stretch in your low back as well as gently deepen the pose. Hold for 30-60 seconds, then switch sides.
Legs up the wall
Why: This is an amazing pose to do while on the road because it gently relieves low back pain as well as any cramping, swelling, or fatigue that can occur after a long flight or bus ride. If you are ever feeling stiff, or tired, this is the pose for you. This is actually a favorite of many of my athletes. (Hint hint: This is also a great “bed time” pose to do before sleep.)
How: Scoot as close to a wall as you can, and flip your legs up so that they are extended, and resting flat against the wall. If you are a little tight you can put a bend in your knees or scoot slightly away from the wall. Hold for 5-10 minutes. If your legs start to tingle, just come out of the pose early.
For those that are interested in expanding their knowledge, head to Raw Sports Yoga!