How to Energize and Open your Heart
To follow up our last post, 5 Best Travel Yoga Poses You can do (Practically) Anywhere to Energize, we’re breaking down each of the 5 postures in the weeks to come to ease your travel-yoga journey.
As we’ve mentioned, even the most well-seasoned yogi(ni)’s can feel a bit… awkward… when taking their practice off of the mat and into public settings. For many people, there’s something deeply intimate about a yoga practice. There’s also a pretty big difference between practicing yoga in an established group setting (i.e. yoga studio, gym, etc.) versus any ol’ public place (i.e. the airport terminal or lobby of your hotel and other travel yoga locations).
All five poses are versatile (modify and alter as necessary), accessible (whether you’ve been practicing yoga or not!), and relatively discrete (can be done in various outfits and in numerous settings). They’re perfect for a travel yoga practice. However, we recommend practicing these shapes initially at home or in a studio setting before taking them to the streets.
Listen to your body—if a shape doesn’t feel good (pain is a different sensation then a releasing stretch), don’t do it. And as always, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before starting any new exercise routine.
If you’re a curious adventurer, looking for your next immersion and opportunity to practice travel yoga, join us in our upcoming retreat to Dominical, Costa Rica! Learn more about the beautiful beach town of Dominical here.
Standing Backbend: Travel Yoga Pose #1
Backbends are inherently energizing. They help to open the chest and strengthen the spine. Even a small backbend, performed correctly, will help give you a quick mood-booster and keep your spine healthy. If you only practice one of our travel yoga poses, this is the one we highly recommend.
From a standing position, separate your feet hip-width and ground down through your soles. Stack your joints, hips over feet and shoulders over hips, to evenly distribute the weight of your body amongst your joints. As you inhale, you can 1) reach your hands overhead, 2)take your palms to your low back, or 3) press your palms together at your heart.
Start by tracing your gaze up to the ceiling and when your gaze sets roughly 45 degrees higher than straight forward, exhale and lean backwards to open up your chest. Maintain a long spine (see Troubleshoot, low back)—there should be no pain. Only bend so far into the pose that you continue steady breathing and the ball mounts of your feet remain grounded. Breathe steadily and evenly through your nose for 5-15 breaths.
As you bend backwards, your body may want to bend your knees as a form of release. While this isn’t inherently ‘bad’ (depending on how deeply your knees are bending), it isn’t recommended to start developing that habit in forming a backbend practice. Ease up on your backbend so your knees remain relatively stacked on your ankles. However, as you deepen your backbend, your shins (and knees by extension) will start to shift forward to counter the weight-exchange that’s happening in your feet.
Depending on your chosen arm variation, your shoulders may start to creep up towards your ears, or round forward. Remind yourself to suction your shoulder blades in and down and continually broaden your collarbones.
If you feel extensive pressure at your low back, you’ve gone a bit too far too quickly in your backbend. Your spine should be ‘lengthening’ while your back bends to combat excessive compression at the posterior side of your vertebral discs. You can try from the beginning, and not go as deep, or take bridge pose (under Modify).
If this backbend is too much on your neck, you may have to strengthen the muscles on the posterior (back) side of your neck. Likely, you spend much of your day with your head slightly leaning forward. Practice gazing up and slightly back from a seated position, regularly, to build strength. Apply the advice from the Shoulders section as well.
- Support a healthy spine
- Relieves chronic back pain
- Compresses and flushes your kidneys
- Stretches your hip flexors
- Counters long periods of sitting and leaning forward
- Releases shoulder tension
This may sound a little too obvious, but the best way to modify a standing backbend is to bend less and/or provide yourself with more support. It takes dedication to build up to a deeper backbend and not risk injury, so always play it safe by listening for signs of pain in your body. Any sensation that feels crunchy, compressed, or stabbing is a red flag.
It’s challenging to maintain your arms in line with your ears in a backbend, so feel free to cactus out your arms for more support. For the most support through this standing backbend, you can place your hands at your low back as you bend—just be sure not to stick your booty out in the process :P.
Bridge pose is a different type of backbend than standing backbend: it targets the lower segments of your thoracic spine and requires cervical flexion. Nonetheless, it’s a superbly healing yoga posture that can be both invigorating and grounding. See this fabulous post by the yoga journal for how-to, benefits, and more!
Wheel or Floor Bow
Both wheel and floor bow may be a bit harder to pop into in an airport (unless you have both the space and the confidence) but my oh my, are they juicy, energizing backbends! Whereas floor bow is a more grand iteration of a standing backbend, wheel pose is more akin to the mature variation of bridge pose. Learn more from the Yoga Journal how to pop into wheel and floor bow.
What are your favorite travel yoga poses? We’re always looking to improve and revise content. Comment below or tag us on social media with your favorite travel yoga poses to energize.