I’m not a huge fan of driving (see Namaste Jackass, 5 Steps to a Calmer Commute). I am both anxious and overly cautious nearly every time I get behind the wheel. I see my life flash before my eyes when cars pull out in front of me. I slam on the brakes way too much. I am meticulous to following traffic rules—I use my turn signal when there’s no one around for miles. Traffic is my enemy. My body stiffens and my shoulders tense and elevate toward my ears.
Last week, I drove 8-10 hours a day for 6 days. But my move from California to South Carolina was somewhat pleasant despite my anxiety about traffic because in my hours on the road I discovered a few new ways to apply my yoga to my driving… I guess you could say I faced my fear, breathed through it, and found new ways to cope with the physical and mental effects of my irrational fears. Score!
Here are a few helpful yoga stretches I discovered that you can do safely while driving (when there’s not a lot of heavy traffic and you are not exceeding the speed limit, of course).
1. Threading the Needle. Keep your left hand on the steering wheel at 10 o’clock. Bring your right arm underneath the left and walk your hand as far toward the back of the car as you can. Use the driver’s side door as a prop to give you leverage and spread your right shoulder blade away from your spine. Repeat on the other side using your passenger seat as your prop.
2. Car Cow Face Pose. Bring one arm up overhead and bend it at the elbow so your hand comes toward the same-side shoulder blade. (Keep the other hand on the steering wheel). Use the back of your seat as a prop to get a deeper stretch. Breathe a lot. Then, do the other side.
3. Shoulder rolls. Roll your shoulders.
4. Check Your Blind Spot. Whenever you need to check your blind spot, turn your head a little more slowly than you normally would and take a deep breath. You’ll get a little neck stretch AND you’ll remember to breathe more often.
5. Half Lotus and Upright Hip Opener. I didn’t find a good way to stretch my right leg while I drove. Even with cruise control on, it just doesn’t seem safe to take your right leg into Lotus while driving (you never know when you might need to slam on your brakes), so I recommend these poses only for your left leg. Do the right when you stop for gas.