8 Yoga Poses You Can Do in Your Hotel Room

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Jake Panasevich yoga poses

Taking yoga on the road can help ease travel-related kinks and prevent setbacks in your progress. (COURTESY OF JAKE PANASEVICH)

The summer after I started yoga, I indulged – a lot – and did not practice consistently. I gained back the 20 pounds I had lost, my body stiffened up and my chronic back pain resurfaced. The cycle of slacking on vacations, returning home to lose weight and gaining it all back on my next trip became so frustrating I started to dread being away from home.

Now, I know better. Rather than avoid trips or let my practice slip, I take yoga with me wherever I go. When I stay at a hotel, for example, I wake up 15 minutes earlier to complete my yoga routine in the room. This pattern allows me to enjoy traveling, sustain my practice and feel light and pain-free. It also helps me stay mentally grounded and less anxious when I return to my regular schedule.

Attempting to keep up your own practice on the road can be daunting and awkward at first, but it’s worth it. Here are eight poses to get you started:

1. Cat Cow Flow

Why: Sitting on a plane or in a car for a long period of time can cause you to slouch and flatten your lower back. But when you’re on your hands and knees, your legs and arms are anatomically neutral, which creates the space your lower back needs to begin your practice and shift into good alignment.

How: On your hands and knees, make sure the center of your wrists are underneath your outer shoulders, your wrists are straight and your knees are directly under your hips. Arch your back and look forward when you inhale; round your spine and look toward your belly when you exhale. Move through this cycle for three to five breaths. Each time, try to arch and round your back a bit more.

2. Down Dog

Why: Because you bear weight in this pose, it can help build strength in your arms, upper back and legs, and improve your mobility. It can also stretch your hamstrings and improve the tone and mobility in your shoulders and back.

How: Start in a plank – aka the top of a pushup. Make sure your wrists are right underneath your shoulders and your legs are straight. Without moving your hands or feet, lift your hips up and back to create an upside-down V. (If you need to bend your knees in order to create a lift in your lower back, that’s fine.) With your weight spread evenly across your hands, press them down and forward, squeeze your arms straight and lift your hips up and back. Lengthen your spine and hold the pose for three to five breaths.

3. Locust

Why: When you’re stagnant, it doesn’t take long for the small, stabilizer muscles in your back to stiffen and deteriorate. Practicing locust pose helps reverse that tendency since lifting your chest and legs off the floor builds strength and length in your back. This pose is an efficient way to invigorate your back muscles and a great way to open up your shoulders and back.

How: Lie down on your belly with your arms at your side like airplane wings. Inhale, lengthen your back and lift up your arms, shoulders, chest and legs. Rotate your inner thighs toward the ceiling and keep your arms and legs powerful. Set your shoulders back and lengthen your neck.

4. Twisted Lunge

Why: Twists are great ways to lengthen one side of your body, from your hip all the way up to your underarm. In turn, they help alleviate back pain and maintain a healthy range of motion in your back.

How: Start standing at the top of your mat with your hands on the floor. (You can bend your knees to touch.) Shift weight onto your right foot and step your left foot back on your mat into a lunge. Then, bend your front knee over your ankle while making sure your back foot is vertical. Straighten your back leg completely and lengthen your back. Inhale, reach your right arm toward the ceiling and plant your left hand on your fingertips under your left shoulder. Continue to stretch your back as you turn your chest toward the ceiling. If balancing is difficult, look down until you are balanced and then slowly look up. Hold the pose for three breaths before switching sides.

5. Side Angle

Why: Side angle is an asymmetrical pose that helps build power in your legs, stretch the top side of your body and create space in the lower half of your back.

How: Stand with your feet wide and facing the long edge of your mat. Point your right foot toward the front of the mat. Bend your right knee until your shin is perpendicular to the floor your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Square your hips and shoulders toward the wall in front of you, rest your right forearm on your front thigh and stretch your top arm alongside your ear. Lengthen your back and hold the pose for three breaths before moving on to the second side.

6. Wide Angle Forward Fold

Why: Whether you spend your vacation walking, running, biking or sitting, your hamstrings will most likely tighten up, which can result in lower back pain. This pose keeps the backs of your legs open and your leg muscles strong.

How: Stand with your feet about 4 feet apart; make sure they’re even and parallel. Lengthen your back and hinge from your hips to bow forward and touch the floor in front of you. Bend your knees as much as you need to in order to touch the floor. Keep your weight even, both in the heels and in the tops of your feet. As your hamstrings loosen, walk your hands closer to your feet. Hold the pose for five deep breaths.

7. Pigeon

Why: Practicing pigeon deeply stretches your outer hip (right where it tends to get tight), which will help protect your knees.

How: From down dog, place your right knee behind your right wrist and angle your shin across your mat. Lower your back knee gently to the floor and place your forearms on the floor in front of you. Level your hips and set down your right inner thigh while squeezing your right outer hip back. As your hips start to open, slide your back leg back. Let your hips settle down toward the floor and back until you feel an achy opening in your right outer hip. Take 10 deep breaths and repeat on the left side.

8. Bridge

Why: Bridge helps keep your back pain-free – which many yogis need – and reverses any tightness in your shoulders.

How: Lie on your back with your ankles underneath your knees and your feet hips-width apart. Press your feet down to lift up your hips and lower back. Clasp your hands behind your back and walk your shoulders up and underneath you. Keep your heels heavy and lengthen your knees forward. At the same time, lift your hips high and lift your chest to your chin.

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