A love of travel means you will frequently be on planes, trains and in cars for more time than the average person. As yogi travelers, when you arrive at your destination, being ready to hit your mat for your practice or teaching is of utmost importance. If you find your self walking stiffly off the airplane on arrival, perhaps its time you consider a new travel buddy.
As a lover of travel and a Teacher Trainer, I too spend a lot of time in transit. Instead of considering your travel time passive or as an opportunity to catch up on work, I recommend you use this time for myofascial release work. I do not typically spend a lot of time sitting during my work week – I have a standing workstation at home and am on my feet as I teach my classes, so unlike the average person, sitting is not my most frequently occupied position. After being cramped and stumbling out of my seat enough times, I knew something needed to change.
Myofascial release and tools are nothing new – I’m sure we all have a foam roller gathering dust at home, but as travelers we need a portable tool. I am a huge fan of Roll Model Therapy Balls: grippy, pliable rubber therapy balls that range in size from a tennis ball up to softball size. These tools are always in my carry-on, no matter how short or long the trip is. In fact, some of my best hamstring massage is done seated on an airplane!
I don’t normally roll my hamstrings or glutes daily, choosing instead to spend the time on my shoulders and spine, so the opportunity to fluff up my posterior chain is something I now look forward to when I travel. Fluff it up? Yep, you read it correctly! When you use a soft and grippy tool for self-massage, the tool helps to stretch and improves the sliding surfaces of your tissues over one another, simultaneously increasing the amount of hydration between layers. This doesn’t happen with a tool that just creates compression, however. You knead a tool that has grip, grab AND compression, which is why I love my Roll Model balls.
Even through your clothing, whether it is jeans or spandex, the grip of the balls is able to create the needed shear for ultimate muscle and fascia rehydration. My favorite moves while in transit? The Hamstring Helper and Neck Release!
Place a Roll Model Ball under your thigh, in the belly of the hamstrings. Move your leg around slowly, playing with swinging your foot from side to side, bending and straightening the knee, and adding additional pressure with your opposite leg. I prefer the ALPHA ball for this, as its softball size is able to create enough pressure even if the car or plane seat is super soft.
The headrests often push your head forward of your shoulders, which can create tension at the front of the neck. To help alleviate tension in the anterior neck and chest, use any size of therapy ball to twirl your skin. This will create the shear needed for rehydration without deep pressure. To do it, pin a therapy ball in place anywhere on the front of your neck. Spin it in one direction, maintaining the pressure into the skin to help twirl your skin and underlying fascias around the ball. Then, mobilize your neck by moving your head away from the ball and/or up towards the ceiling. You can maximize the pin, spin and mobilize effect by bringing your chin towards the ball before you spin so that the ball is able to capture as much tissue as possible. (Deep pressure at the front of the neck is not advised, but pin, spin and mobilize with your hand is totally fair game!)
Try these two techniques to practice self-care while traveling. Enjoy the new bounce in your step as you travel onto your next adventure!
Alexandra Ellis is an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® Trainer, RYPT-500 & founder of AE Wellness. Her teaching & studies focus on injury prevention, rehabilitation & wellness, inspired by her studies at UC Davis where she earned a BS in Exercise Biology.