Car Yoga Poses & Stretches for Your Next Road Trip

It’s a real thing… Car yoga! You might laugh at the idea of doing a downward facing dog in the car – that’s quite a visual indeed and you probably can’t imagine going that far with car yoga poses and stretch exercise.

But imagine… the awesome release of yoga after long car rides.

[Speaking of relaxing car rides… Did you know that renting a car for a road trip can SAVE you money? Honestly. Go read this post to find out how!]

A Road Trip is Relaxing Enough, No?

In all seriousness, though, a road trip can revitalize you. But all those sedentary hours behind the wheel can wear on your body, especially if you’re the driver. Most often, even when you have done nothing other than sit there and push the gas pedal, you arrive at your destination exhausted. Furthermore, road trips are often hard on the hips and low back because you’re sitting for long periods of time.

We weren’t designed to sit. The body is a perpetual motion machine.

Joan Vernikos

Joan Vernikos, former director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division and author of Sitting Kills, Moving Heals, explains why sitting for extended periods is harmful. Sedentary people have a lower blood oxygen level and nutrient levels for their muscles.

Getting behind the wheel tired is a risky experience—especially in a rental car. According to a new study from Australia, driving can also contribute to obesity, poor sleep, stress, and other life-shortening health issues. 

car yoga poses

About 37,000 Australian participants were interviewed about their daily routines, sleeping habits, exercise habits, and a few other health factors. According to the study, people who spent two hours (or more) on the road every day were:

Those who travel frequently are also more likely to smoke and fail to meet their weekly exercise targets, the study shows.

Research shows that even 30 minutes of driving daily increases your risk for all of these negative health issues. But don’t get stuck on the two-hour threshold.

So what’s so bad about driving? 

Research fellow at the University of Sydney, Melody Ding, Ph.D., says at this point we can only speculate. However, these three theories, alone or together, could explain why driving negatively affects your health.

Several health concerns have been linked to prolonged sitting. There are several components of metabolic syndrome, including obesity and a cluster of conditions, including high blood pressure, hyperglycemia, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. 

“Sitting shuts off electrical activity in the legs,” says Toni Yancey, a UCLA professor of health services. The body becomes less sensitive to insulin, calorie-burn plummets, and the breakdown of safe blood fats is slowed, lowering HDL cholesterol when we sit too much.

Over time, sitting may cause the metabolism to slow down in a negative way, affecting blood sugar control and fat metabolism, and making muscles and bones weaker. The early 1970s found that astronauts in zero gravity had accelerated bone and muscle loss and accelerated aging.

car yoga poses

We only have 24 hours in a day. It may not leave you with time for exercise, sleeping, cooking healthy meals, or other beneficial habits if you’re traveling. The pedestrian component of public transportation makes it a safer—or healthier?— option than driving, she adds.

According to the researchers, sitting increases the pressure on discs in the back by 300 percent compared to standing. While you may have to sit while driving on your road trip, you can reduce some of the stress with sitting yoga exercises and standing stretches and exercises while you stop for fuel or food.

Road Trip Yoga Stretches Can Help Reduce Driver Fatigue

Driving for long periods of time can be dangerous regardless of whether you are navigating traffic during your commute or travelling across the open country roads for a family vacation. When a driver is in control of their vehicle for more than a half hour, he or she should take extra precautions.

car yoga driver fatigue

In addition to driver fatigue, long periods of driving can cause drivers to lose control. When driving for an extended period of time, you can stay safe and alert in several ways. 

Here are four ways stretching can improve your health. Stretching can help with:

1.     Your flexibility increases as you stretch. Don’t give up on stretching; it gets easier with time!

2.     Stretching will help strengthen your core muscles, leading to better posture and alignment.

3.     Movement becomes easier when your muscles are loose and stretched out, which helps prevent injuries.

4.     The increased blood flow from stretching increases nutrients delivery to tissues and reduces soreness. Additionally, it increases blood circulation in your body.

Additionally, stretching will calm your mind. Taking a mental break allows you to recharge and refresh both your body and mind. Exercising daily can help you release tension and boost your energy.

Seated Car Yoga Exercises to Keep You Supple and Alert

Using the right technique is important when it comes to stretching. It’s best to warm up your muscles a little before stretching out, so take a short walk to get them warmed up. Focus on muscles that are painful and tight to encourage blood flow to those areas. Avoid bouncing! Bumping can lead to soreness and increased inflexibility, since it can slightly tear your muscles.

 Stretching does not need to take up a lot of your time. With 10 minutes of stretching every day, you can get a good stretch. Getting into the habit of stretching every day will help you increase your range of motion.

Stretching is a great way to relax after driving. If you stretch your body each day and quiet your mind, you will experience many benefits.

The good news is that there is a way for you to take care of your body and reduce the feelings of stagnation that come with driving – car yoga.

Take advantage of these simple car yoga moves next time you’re on a road trip or stuck in traffic. They’ll help you get through the drive and arrive at your destination more relaxed.

Introducing Car Yoga Poses: What is Car Stretch Exercise?

Car Yoga uses traditional poses but modifies them so they can be done seated in the car or when you stop to get gas. In spite of its name, Car Yoga can be done anywhere you must sit. For example, on an airplane or if you work a desk job. Chair Yoga exercises follow the same concept.

Those who spend most of their waking hours sitting encounter the most stagnation in their hips, neck, and lower back. You will feel brand new when you resume driving after taking a 10-minute break. You can also do sitting poses in the car while you are a passenger.

 It’s also a good idea while you’re learning about car Yoga exercises to do while you’re driving, to prepare your body for the long drive and the long hours sitting up with a quick Yoga sequence. Even doing some Yoga in bed in the morning will make a big difference in how your body endures the road trip.

car yoga poses

Car Yoga Pose #1:  Seated Crescent Moon Pose (Anjaneyasana)

Do the seated crescent moon post while you’re seated in the car. In addition to relaxing the low back, this exercise also stretches the obliques. A simple 3-4 sets each side will suffice, as long as you keep your hips level. 

  1. Straighten your back and extend your hands above your head while taking a deep breath
  2. Grab your elbows with one hand each
  3. Lean from one side to the other while exhaling
  4. Hold your breath for a moment
  5. Exhale to return to center and then do the opposite side

Car Yoga Poses #2:  Seated Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)

Stretching your neck and upper chest in the car can help relieve tension. Repeat the seated cobra pose three to four times while holding the pose for 4-5 breaths. Imagine raising your heart to the roof of the car.

  1. Lean forward a little and stick your chest out
  2. Place your hands on your bent knees
  3. As you inhale, lift your head and your heart
  4. Lift your chin and gaze at the car’s roof
  5. Maintain a relaxed distance between your shoulders and your ears
  6. Your right hand should touch the left knee or thigh while sitting up tall
  7. Wrap your left arm or elbow around the headrest in the back of your seat
  8. As you exhale, hold and twist deeper
  9. Repeat the process on the other side

Car Yoga Poses #3: Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)

The following car yoga stretch is done while seated in the car. The stretching will help decompress your shoulders and lower spine. Hold for three breaths three times each.

  1. Bring your right hand to your left knee or thigh and sit up tall. If you can’t reach your thigh with your hand, grab the steering wheel.
  2. Grasp the headrest behind you with your left elbow or arm
  3. As you exhale, hold and twist deeper
  4. Take a moment to unwind and repeat the same thing on the other side

Car Yoga Pose #4: Twisted Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)

Sit in your car while creating synovial fluid to loosen tight spines. Hold each side for 30 seconds to one minute.

Remember to twist your spine, not your neck. Make sure your knee joints are even – if one of them is farther forward than the other, straighten it up.

  1. Take a deep breath and place your hands in prayer position
  2. As you exhale, bend forward and keep your back straight
  3. Put your right elbow against your left thigh
  4. When you exhale, look down at your toes and sink deeper
  5. Repeat on the other side.

3 Car Yoga Poses to Do During Pit Stops

OnePoll’s study for Cooper Tire foundation found that the average American drives 18 days each year and eight hours per week.

Over 100 minutes a day are spent sitting in a car (Harvard Health Watch), and more than an hour and a half is spent with little or no movement.

As a matter of fact, our bodies are not designed for this. In just 20 minutes in a car, you can easily feel the discomfort in your whole body. Regardless of how comfortable your car seats are, your body wants to move.

Here are some tips on ways to practice car yoga when you are refueling, getting some food, or arriving at your destination after a long drive.

Road Trip Yoga Pose #1: Dancer’s Pose (Natarajasana)

Perform 2-3 repetitions of the dancer’s pose to stretch the spine, shoulders, and quadricycles. For extra stability, place your left hand on the car.

  1. Place your weight on your left foot
  2. Grab your right foot with your right arm and reach back
  3. Put your back into an arch by stretching back
  4. Repeat on the other side

Road Trip Yoga Poses #2: Modified Lunge (Anjaneyasana)

This modified lunge will help you stretch your quads and hamstrings the next time you pitstop. Breathe in and out three times on each side while holding the position. You can also push your foot up on the ledge of the trunk or the tailgate for an even greater intensity.

  1. Step your right foot up onto the running board or trunk of the car while keeping your left foot on the ground
  2. Keep your left leg straight while bending your right knee
  3. Take a deep breath and lunge forward
  4. Raise your arms overhead
  5. Repeat on the other side
Natarajasana

Road Trip Yoga Poses #3:  Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana)

While you’re fueling up, perform Uttanasana to lengthen your back and wake up your hamstrings. Repeat for 5+ breaths, 4x. Make sure your spine is as long as possible, and don’t round your back.

  1. Put your feet together and bend your knees a bit
  2. Exhale as you fold your torso over your legs as you hinge at your hips
  3. Put your hands next to your feet or hold your elbows opposite one another
  4. Take 5 deep breaths and then slowly rise up on an inhale

If you’re planning a road trip to some natural hot springs or some of the top US landmarks in the winter, keep these car yoga poses and exercises handy so you and your passengers can enjoy a more mindful journey and arrive feeling ready to explore. I hope you’ll arrive at your destination feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy your vacation.