Yoga to De-Stress Your Morning Commute

Americans average more than 100 hours a year commuting to work, with the typical rush-hour trip lasting 25 minutes, according to U.S. Census data. For many commuters, that’s 25 (or 50) tense minutes a day. If your drive time leaves you feeling tense, it probably leaves your back, spine, and neck feeling like a three-car pile up. “Commuting is becoming the most stressful part of our day,” says Darrin Zeer, author of Travel Yoga: Stretches for Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and More! “Waiting at traffic stop lights makes us uncomfortable and edgy.” Not to mention stiff. Too much travel time can do a number on the body from the head to the feet. Zeer suggests using the time you spend sitting in traffic not fuming but decompressing your car cramp.

Practices of yoga to de-stress morning commute

The jam: Breath
Whether you have a tractor-trailer or a hungry T-rex on your tail, the effect on your breathing is probably the same—faster and shallower. Best move aside if possible and let the animal pass. Then reset your nervous system with yogic ocean breaths (ujjayi pranayama), which can be done anytime, anywhere (yes, even while operating a vehicle), and it serve to settle the nervous system almost instantaneously. “Long, slow, deep breaths immediately release tension,” Zeer says. Here’s how: Close your throat. Inhale up the back of your throat for at least four counts, and then strongly exhale the breath through the nose. The warmth and regularity of these breaths soothes the brain and the body to brace you for any ups and downs during your workday. Practice this breathing technique the second your tush meets the driver seat to prepare yourself for the commute. Then use it again when you turn off the ignition. And make it your go-to tool when traffic ties up. Use at least 5 to 8 rounds of this breathing technique in each of the following tension-curbing exercises.

The jam: Neck
When traffic comes to a standstill, work out the kinks in your neck by slowly rolling your head around in wide circles. Keep your shoulders down and, when you find a tense spot, hold your head there and take five breaths. Let each exhale release some tightness. Roll your head very slow twice to each side.

The jam: Shoulders and chest
While stopped, sit upright with your feet hip-width apart and knees directly over your ankles. Interlace your fingers behind your head and relax your elbows and shoulders so they are limp. With your chest lifted and your chin tucked, stretch your elbows backward. Feel your shoulders loosen and your chest expand. Take five breaths, relax for a few breaths, and repeat. You might even hear a cracking on your exhale.

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