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SFHF_SilverMagazine_March_2024_Detox_LeaderboardThe Westin Nova Scotian Wellness

Best stretches for travellers

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These stretches will relieve tightness and improve your overall wellbeing during long periods of sitting and standing. This includes travel — and a lot of modern life in general.  

We can all relate to the pain that comes with traveling. Not just the kind that you get when dealing with airports, delays or mishaps with plans. I’m talking about the aches and discomfort that come with sitting for what feels like days on end, lifting and moving heavy luggage, not sleeping — you get the gist.

I know these pains first-hand! I travel for work weekly and it definitely takes a toll on my body. Stretching has been my saving grace that’s helped me cope with the physical aggravation and reduce my muscle and joint tension after long or constant travel. 

Travelling is a very sedentary process requiring us to sit for long periods. Stretching during and after travel decreases fatigue and discomfort by warming up your muscles and ensuring they get the proper nutrients and blood supply. It corrects posture. Quite simply, it feels like a breath of fresh air!

The sequence of stretches I came up with, and do regularly, has significantly assisted in reducing my muscle and joint aches during and after travel. The best thing about these stretches is that they can be done pretty much anywhere – most of them in a seated position. They’re very car, plane, airport or any terminal friendly! 

Let’s start at the top! 

  1. TRAP STRETCH 

This stretch targets the trapezius muscles — the muscles we tense when we’re cold to keep our neck warm, as well as when we’re seated for extended periods or carrying heavy bags. When they get too tight we can feel it in our neck, which leads to tension headaches. This stretch helps alleviate neck strain and reduces the potential of headaches. 

  1. Sit or stand upright with your shoulders down and back. 
  2. Place your right hand on your head.
  3. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale gently draw your head to the right and slightly forward with your chin pointing toward your left collar bone. 
  4. With each inhale release the stretch slightly, and with each exhale draw your head a little further into your collar bone, slowly increasing the stretch with each breath. 
  5. Repeat for 10 breaths before switching sides. 

 

PRO TIP: Your breaths should be long and steady. Count to at least 5 for each exhale. Apply this method to all your static stretches.

2. CHEST OPENER

When our shoulders are rolled forward (as they usually are while seated and traveling), our chest muscles become tight and pull the muscles in our back, shoulders and neck forward. This creates tightness, aches, and sometimes, pain in the neck, upper back, and even head. Loosening the muscles in the chest prevents your shoulders from rounding forward and will improve posture.

  1. Sit or stand upright with your shoulders down and back. 
  2. Clasp your hands behind your back with your knuckles pointing toward floor. 
  3. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale straighten your arms, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and press your knuckles further toward the floor.
  4. Repeat for 10 breaths before switching sides. 

PRO TIP: Keep a tight clasp with your fingers, pressing your palms together. 

3. GLUTE STRETCH 

This stretch targets the gluteus muscles — the muscles we sit on while traveling! This stretch will help with blood flow to the area, reducing tension in the low back and relieving built-up aches that come with being on your bum all day!

  1. Sit in an upright position, core engaged and shoulders down and back.
  2. Draw your right ankle up and over your left knee. 
  3. Flex the toes on your right foot to engage the muscles around your knee to protect the knee joint. 
  4. Take a deep breath and as you exhale gently press your right knee down toward the ground.
  5. Each inhale release the stretch slightly and each exhale gently press your knee down a little further. 
  6. Repeat for 8-10 breaths before moving to the other side. 

PRO TIP: Be sure to keep your toes flexed as you press down so you don’t torque your knee. 

  1. HAMSTRING STRETCH

This stretch targets the hamstrings, which are usually in a contracted position while seated. Stretching these muscles will get the blood flowing in your legs to reduce swelling and alleviate tension in the posterior chain (back of the body).  

  1. Start in a seated position with your core engaged. This is important so you don’t round your spine.
  2. Extend your right leg out straight and flex your toes. 
  3. Inhale and as you exhale reach for your right toes with your left hand, again maintaining that braced core. 
  4. Each inhale release the stretch slightly and each exhale gently draw your chest forward a little further. 
  5. Repeat for 8-10 breaths before moving to the other side. 

PRO TIP: To properly engage your core think about drawing your belly button towards your spine. Or imagine the contracting movement you make when you brace for a punch to the stomach.

  1. STANDING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

This stretch targets the hip flexor muscles — the muscles that are constantly contracted and squeezed while seated. Most people have tight hip flexor muscles because most of us sit for most of the day. And because some of the hip flexor muscles attach to the spine/back muscles, this tightness in the hips can cause lower back pain. Performing this stretch will open up the hips and relieve aches and tightness in the hips and low back area. 

  1. Start in a standing position with core engaged and shoulders down and back. 
  2. Take a long step forward with left leg (about 2-3 feet).
  3. Ensure both feet are firmly planted as you squeeze your bum and press your hips forward.
  4. As you inhale, release the stretch slightly and as you exhale squeeze the bum and press hips forward slightly further. 
  5. Repeat for 8-10 breaths before moving to the other side. 

PRO TIP: Focus on keeping your bum tightly squeezed and tucking your hips under to feel the stretch in the hip flexor muscles. 

  1. KNEELING HIP FLEXOR STRETCH

Similar to the standing version, this stretch targets the hip flexor muscles. Doing both the standing and kneeling versions can only duplicate the benefits of loosening any built-up tension in this area. 

  1. Start in a half-kneeling position with your core engaged and shoulders down and back.
  2. You should have 90 degree angles in both the knee you’re kneeling on and the front knee.
  3. Ensure your front foot is firmly planted as you squeeze your bum and press your hips forward.
  4. As you inhale release the stretch slightly and as you exhale squeeze the bum and press hips forward slightly further.
  5. Repeat for 8-10 breaths before moving to the other side.

7. RAGDOLL

This is my absolute favourite stretch to release tension in the whole upper body, back, neck and head. 

  1. Stand with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart. 
  2. With a slight bend in your knees, fold forward at the hips, releasing your head and arms toward the ground. 
  3. The top of your head should be toward the floor and your neck and back should be completely disengaged. 
  4. Breathe normally as you focus on letting go of each muscle in your neck, back, arms, and even fingers. As the name suggests, you should be completely limp in the upper body, relieving tension in the whole upper body. 

PRO TIP: Come out of this stretch VERY slowly to avoid any light-headedness or dizziness. 

Performing 1-2 rounds of these stretches every couple of hours while traveling will absolutely reduce your aches and pains during and after travel! It will also improve blood flow to reduce inflammation and water retention that usually comes with long commutes. 

Happy trails! 

More Inspiration: Check out this cool article on how travel can renew your sense of self.

Author: Jaclyn Phillips is a registered yoga teacher, fitness coach and movement expert who seeks to balance work, fun, and health. A CPA national champion bikini competitor and published cover model, she helps clients to focus on internal health and longevity. She encourages everyone to continue learning and exploring through movement and healthy living. You can find her online here.

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