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5 Stretches for a Long Car Ride

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<img src="man-stretches-outside-car.jpg" alt="man on the beach stretches outside his car"/>

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Long car trips can leave us feeling sore and exhausted. These five stretches can keep your circulation and digestion humming along, ease lower back pain, and unwind sore shoulders.

The holidays are coming up, and with them, for some of us, will be that long car trip that leaves us feeling sore and exhausted. Sitting for an extended period of time can be hard on our circulation and digestion, and it’s especially easy to get lower back pain and sore shoulders from sitting in one position for a long time. Not to worry—here are three stretches you can do when you are a passenger in the car (sorry, drivers—keep your eyes on the road!), and two you can all do when you pull over at a rest stop. Include the kids in the stretching routine; it might help break up the boredom while keeping everyone calm. As always, avoid anything that causes pain, and check with your health practitioner to make sure these exercises are right for you.

Neck Rolls 

Lean forward slightly in your seat so you can lift your chest up push your shoulders back. Think about trying to roll onto the front of your sitbones, rather than slumping back into the car seat. Wrap your hands around your knees and gently pull them in toward you to help pull your shoulders back and down away from your ears. 

Gently drop your right ear to your right shoulder and take a deep breath there. Then slowly roll your head forward so your chin drops into your chest. Deep breath there. Then roll to the left and take another deep breath. Keep slowly rolling side to side at least four times. 

When this feels complete, come up to center and roll your shoulders up towards your ears, back, and then down a few times. (If you suffer from a sore neck and upper back upon your arrival, try these 3 Ways to Attack a Tight Trapezius.)

Seated Twist

Sit up tall in your seat so that your chest is lifted. Reach your right arm across to your left thigh and gently turn your upper body to the left, looking toward the back. Pull your left shoulder back, too, resting that hand on your hip. Take five breaths here, and then switch sides, twisting to the right. 

Seated Hip Opening

Place your right ankle onto your left thigh, just above the knee, and flex your foot. Lift your chest and work toward curving your back inward. You might feel a stretch here, but if not, you can lean forward further, folding toward your leg, until you feel a stretch in your hip. Take five breaths here and then switch sides.

Warrior One (for a rest stop) 

When you can get out of the car, it’s time to stretch your hip flexors. From standing, step your right foot behind you three feet or so, and turn the toes slightly out so that your heel can land completely on the ground. Your feet should be hips-distance apart, width-wise. With both legs straight, press your back heel into the ground and do your best to tuck your tailbone under you, lengthening your lower back. Keep that working strongly as you slowly bend into your front leg. You should feel a stretch at the top of your back leg’s thigh. Then reach your arms up to the sky. Take five breaths here and then switch sides.  

Standing Forward Fold with Shoulder Opening (for a rest stop)

Step your feet wide apart, about a leg’s length (the width doesn’t matter that much). Keep your feet parallel to each other. Interlace your fingers behind your back and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Press the fists down and stretch your heart up to the sky. After about five breaths, bend your knees slightly and fold forward, letting your fists rise to the sky. If your shoulders or your lower back feel very uncomfortable, simply release your hands down to the ground. Let your head relax, even giving it a shake if you want. Take about 10 breaths here. 

Once you arrive at your destination, relax with Julie’s guided “Meditation for Connecting to the Heart.”


Julie Peters

Julie Peters is a staff writer for Spirituality & Health. She is also a yoga teacher (E-RYT 500, YACEP) and co-owner of Ocean and Crow Yoga studio in Vancouver, BC, with her mom, Jane. She is the author of Secrets of the Eternal Moon Phase Goddesses: Meditations on Desire, Relationships, and the Art of Being Broken (SkyLight Paths 2016) and WANT: 8 Steps to Recovering Desire, Passion, and Pleasure After Sexual Assault (Mango Media 2019). Learn more at www.jcpeters.ca. Follow her at @juliejcp.

Learn with Julie! 

Register for Julie's courses Stress Management Skills for Real Life: Practices for a Calmer Happier Life and Moon Goddess Meditations: A 16-night journey of desire, heartache and connection.


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