Long flights, lots of walking and constant kid activity can take all the fun out of any summer vacation.
But there’s an easy remedy, and it can go wherever your next trip takes you: yoga.
You don’t need any equipment or special skills to practice yoga’s simple stretches. All you need is a moment to slow things down, breathe deeply and allow your body to relax.
“If you do nothing else, take five huge breaths through the nose,” advises Meredith Smith, a yoga instructor at the Downtown Fort Worth YMCA. “Breathing through the nose and letting your belly expand really helps you relax deeply.”
A few easy yoga poses, one of them shown here by Smith – do them in your hotel room, in your bedroom or at the beach – can also go a long way toward relieving stress, promoting well-being and helping us find our bliss. And isn’t that the real reason we head to beaches, mountains and lakes each summer?
Why do it: It stretches the upper back and shoulders.
How to do it: Sit cross-legged. Cross right arm under left arm and wrap until backs of hands or palms are together. Lift the elbows shoulder height and push forward. Hold for five breaths. Repeat, crossing left arm under right arm this time.
Why do it: It opens up the outer hip.
How to do it: Lie on your back. Cross your right ankle over left knee. Reach right arm through your legs and left arm on outside of left leg and clasp, pulling legs toward you. Relax right outer hip. Hold for five breaths, then change legs.
Why do it: It promotes relaxation and opens the inner thighs and hips. It is not an active stretch.
How to do it: Lie on your back and bring soles of feet together, knees splayed. Draw heels toward your groin, arms at your side, about 45 degrees from your body. Palms should be up, fingers slightly curled, eyes soft and closed. Hold 3 to 5 minutes.
Don’t do this if you have: knee and lower back pain.
Why do it: It really stretches the upper back, chest, arms and shoulders. Plus it feels great.
How to do it: It’s no surprise that this is a modified downward facing dog with a few small differences. Get on all fours, then extend arms in front of you and melt your heart down toward the floor. Hold for five breaths.
Downward facing dog
(a forward bend)
Why do it: If you only have time for one pose, this is the one. It stretches every major muscle in the body.
How to do it: Downward facing dog is an inverted V. Get on all fours with hands shoulder-width apart, fingers splayed. Press sitz bones (lowest part of the pelvis) back, pressing heels into the floor. Head is relaxed. Hold for five breaths. Think of the way your dog stretches after a nap.
Don’t do this if you have: wrist pain, high blood pressure or glaucoma.
Sphinx (a backbend)
Why do it: It’s a gentle low back stretch. It’s great for lower-back pain associated with walking a lot or sitting for long periods of time.
How to do it: Lie on your belly with your elbows under your shoulders and palms face down. Legs are extended behind you, not too far apart, with shoulders relaxed. Hold for five breaths.