Yoga for Drivers: Ease the Pain of the Long Rides
In his beautiful words Khalil Gibran tells us, “A traveler I am, and a navigator, and every day I discover a new region of my soul.”
But driving in any urban environment today has the potential to put your soul and nervous system into fight or flight mode instantaneously. The sheer explosion in volume of cars, bikes, pedestrians, and other distractions like GPS, is mind boggling and breeds anxiety exponentially.
While I’ve had a far less than stellar driving record, since taking up yoga I’m grateful to be enjoying the benefits of my practice in the drivers seat. That has shown up as having more awareness of the flow of traffic, as being able to integrate elegantly into a congested rush hour and most importantly, enjoy the journey!
Over the course of my career, I’ve spent thousands of hours commuting and before I started being more proactive about taking care of myself, there was a lot of suffering going on. Some of my symptoms included:
• painful and tight shoulders and neck from craning forward,
• cramped wrists and arms from the steering wheel,
• low-back discomfort as a result of the way seats are designed,
• groin pain, and chronic tightness in the hip flexors and diaphragm,
• numbness and lymph edema in my lower legs and feet,
• irritability and aggressive driving.
How Yoga Helps
Yoga is the perfect antidote to release tension that builds over the course of the journey, and it helps us come into the present moment, so we can be very aware of traffic patterns around us. We integrate with the flow of our fellow travelers more easily, and we get to our destination calmly, on time, and in a good mood.
A short physical asana practice that is informal and easy to do anywhere can help keep you refreshed on a long journey.
• Before you leave and after you arrive, and even when you stop for a break at a rest station, shake out the wrists and do a few standing helicopter twists for 5 breath cycles
• Rub your hands together and then palm the bones around the eyes. Slowly move the eyes in all directions using slow breaths as the catalyst for movement. Do this for 5 breath cycles
• Put your hands on a wall or on the roof of the car and move into a modified downward dog to stretch the hamstrings and the spine. If you can take 10 breath cycles here it can really help the low back.
• Squat using the wall or the car as a support to help you keep your balance. When you bend the knees keep them moving in the same direction as the toes. Do this 5 times and take 1 breath cycle with each repetition.
• Come to standing lunge and stretch the front of the hips by engaging the glutes and the whole pelvic girdle. Let your legs be a comfortable distance apart as you take 5 breath cycles on each side.
Listen To YOU
Choose silence as a companion while driving and see what happens. Notice the quality of your thoughts. Can you let go of the ones that lead you away from peace? When at a stop sign or red light, check in with the quality of the breath, and notice what you are thinking about.
Try working with the breath while driving and bring awareness to quality of sounds and sights surrounding you. During these quiet times, we seem to be more to be “in the flow”. That is what Yoga is all about. It’s about the union of all the moving parts as one, in harmony. It’s a great place where we have a bubble of space around us, and it just seems to be clear sailing. Sometimes in the middle of a major snarl up, and our lane just seems to inexplicably open up, and we can move way forward! We also see trouble brewing in other lanes that may not have come into our consciousness if we had been listening to he radio. Adopting quiet while driving truly helps us be more defensive drivers.
Do I Need To Go That Fast?