Sit Strong while Traveling
Welcome to week two of the travel yoga pose breakdown, inspired by 5 Best Travel Yoga Poses You can do (Practically) Anywhere to Energize.
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.
Chair Pose: Travel Yoga Pose #2
This posture is fierce: anyone who’s taken a class where their instructor guides them through chair for more than 5 breaths knows what I’m talking about. Who would have guessed holding a static squat while breathing would be so challenging? It was also news to me when I read that chair pose is meant to be a fierce pose. The Sanskrit naming of chair pose is utkatasana. Utkata loosely translates to fierce or difficult (and asana to pose). This shape must be done mindfully, or you’ll risk countering the brag worthy benefits it possesses.
Start standing with your feet parallel and hip-width or a smidge wider than hip-width. When we say hip-width, we’re talking about the distance between your femur heads (roughly two fists’ distance between your feet) rather than the meat on ya bones.
On an inhale, either reach your arms overhead or take them long by your side. With your exhale, bend your knees and pull your hips back—like you’re squatting into a chair. “Tuck” your tail bone under and imagine a straight, diagonal line extending through your tailbone and the top of your head.
Position your head so your neck is a part of the now diagonal line your spine is forming, then soften your shoulders and face. Grant the front of your body permission to support the back of your body. Allow your low belly to engage (like you’re zipping up a pair of pants!), especially on the exhale. Align your front ribs parallel with your back ribs to prevent arching your lumbar and thoracic spine. Hold for up to 10 breaths and feel free to rest/relax your arms if they become too much to carry overhead.
Your knees should stay relatively stacked on top of your ankles. However, as Paul Grilley—master teacher and anatomy genius hammers home, many repeated, natural movements in our daily lives require us to bend our knees far beyond our toes. Instead of blaming improper alignment for this issue, it may be more beneficial to self-inquire (or ask a doctor, PT, or bodyworker to help you analyze) about where you need to build strength. In other words, which muscle groups are slacking off in your chair pose that need to step up and bear some weight or engage?
If you feel knee pain, don’t bend as deeply into your knees. Work on strengthening the muscles that support your knees: quadriceps, hamstrings & calves. Play with shifting your weight around in your feet. Ideally, your weight should be fairly equally distributed throughout both soles of your feet: arches and edges, ball mounts and heels. As you squat more deeply, a bit more weight will transfer to your heels but not so much that your ball mounts lift.
Your spine should stay in a “straight” line (though not vertical), or at least as straight as it is naturally. In other words, no rounding forward, and no bending backwards.
Fixing pelvis problems can also help with troubleshooting your spine and returning your spine to neutral. As you lean back into your chair pose, your pelvis may tilt forward—this sends your spine into a backbend and stretches your abdominal muscles, which is not what we’re going for. Aim, instead, to lift the anterior (front) portion of your pelvis (at your hip points) towards your rib cage and tuck your lower ribs to prevent any chest poppin’ as your lean back and squat down.
- Increases heat
- Builds endurance
- Reduces flat feet
- Promotes correct posture
- Strengthens muscles that support the spine
- Amplifies focus
You don’t have to reach up to do chair pose. As mentioned, you can take your hands to your heart and alongside your body. This modification helps make chair pose a bit more discrete and gives your shoulders a break. You can focus, instead, on deepening your squat. A further modification would be to literally use a chair for chair pose. This won’t be near the leg-burning exercise as chair-less chair pose, but is a great launching point and opportunity to connect with your breath & body through alignment & awareness.
While maintaining suitable, tailored-to-you alignment, of course.
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.