The car is packed, playlist queued, and an abundant festival schedule eagerly awaits you. Friends and yoga mats pile in, windows are rolled down, beats are turned up. The roadtrip to Wanderlust Festival has begun.
The journey to Wanderlust allows you to distance yourself from routine—letting it grow smaller in your rearview mirror—before diving into a weekend full of enrichment, connection, community and transformation. Depending on your drive time, however, a lengthy road trip can also mean unfolding yourself from a cramped seated position and needing a yoga class more than ever.
Set yourself up for a successful weekend by using this mini-sequence below to help you to stay limber along the way.
Include pit stops to release your hip flexors, low back, neck, shoulders and thoracic spine, and hold each pose for at least 45 seconds to 1 minute per side (any shorter and you may not receive the benefit, due to our body’s stretch reflex). If you only have a few minutes at a given pit stop, do poses 1 through 3. If you have more time, enjoy the whole sequence. Though these breaks will add additional minutes to your drive, they will allow you dive right into your chosen classes, wholeheartedly, upon arrival.
Purpose: You’ve been spending plenty of time in spinal flexion; add in spinal extension to reverse the process and open your thoracic spine. Use a travel mat or towel, or go prone on a picnic table.
How to: Lay on your belly, with your toes pointed so that the tops of your feet anchor into the earth. Come onto your forearms, aligning your elbows underneath your shoulders; spread your fingers, keeping your hands shoulder-width apart. Draw your chin slightly toward your chest so your cervical spine lengthens and the back of your skull lifts a touch. Move your shoulders away from your ears and, while anchoring through your feet and engaging your legs, get the feeling of pulling your heart forward between your hands. Hold for at least 45 seconds and breathe.
Purpose: Utilize a rest stop’s picnic table (or a café’s chair) to externally rotate and stretch those cranky roadtripping-hips. The elevated position of a chair or bench will make this pose much more accessible than a deeper shape like single pigeon.
How to: Have a seat on the chair, with your feet on the ground and thighs parallel to the earth. Bring your outer right ankle to the top of your left thigh in a figure-4 shape. Flex your right foot to keep your knee in alignment and continue growing tall through your spine. Choose to use your right elbow to help draw your inner thigh out and down, externally rotating the leg and adding a deeper stretch. If you’d like to deepen the pose, hinge at the hips and, while keeping a long spine, fold forward to your desired depth. Hold for at least 45 seconds and then switch sides.
Purpose: This shape does double-duty. It stretches the hip-flexors while opening the chest, countering prolonged sitting and steering wheel gripping. If you’re on a hard surface, use a mat or folded towel underneath the lowered knee.
How to: Start in a lunge, using your hands on the earth for support. Lower your back knee to the ground. Bring your hands to your front thigh and settle into the shape. Square off your sit bones and take a few breaths. When you’re ready, lift your arms to the sky. Draw your navel toward your spine to support your low back from undue compression, lift your sternum and open across your heart. Add any additional arm variations that feel good (palms together, grab opposite elbows, interlace hands behind your back, et cetera). Hold for at least 45 seconds while taking full breaths, and then switch sides.
Ardha Matsyendrasana Variation
Purpose: After a couple hours rooted to your seat, your body is likely itching for a twist. This seated spinal twist variation is an accessible road trip stretch, as it doesn’t require lying down or immense flexibility.
How to: Start seated with a tall spine and legs outstretched. Bend your right knee and place your right foot on the ground. If you have the space, step your right foot to the outside of the left thigh, though this isn’t necessary to receive the benefits of this pose. Tent your right fingers on the ground behind you. Inhale your left arm to the sky; keep your spine tall. As you exhale, twist to the right. Bend your left elbow and hook the elbow to the outside of your right thigh for support, or simply hug your knee. Breathe in to find length through the spine, breathe out to twist deeper. (Want a bonus neck stretch? Lower your left ear toward your left shoulder.) Hold for at least 45 seconds and then switch sides.
Standing Shoulder Opener
Purpose: Often done at the wall during a yoga class to open the chest and shoulders, this “pec stretch” can be done against a building, your SUV or even a sturdy tree.
How to: Stand with your right hip against your makeshift wall-of-choice. Stretch your right arm back behind you so your palm is resting against the surface and your arm is parallel to the ground. (Note: if you don’t have that much space, this stretch can be done with a bent elbow and forearm at 90 degrees.) Keep your right shoulder close to the wall and roll it away from your ear. Rotate your heart toward the left as you have the space. Hold for at least 45 seconds and then switch sides.
Purpose: Release the low back with this final, symmetrical forward fold. Since we’re loosening rather than strengthening, this pose will be done with a bend in the knees to alleviate quadriceps and hamstring activation; an optional wall, car or tree will further support the passive release of the shape.
How to: Start with your back toward your surface of choice, with your heels approximately 6 inches way from its base and your feet hips’ distance apart. Bend into your knees until your bum can rest against the surface. Keep your knees bent, hinge at the hips and, with the support of the wall, fold forward. Let your torso be heavy against your thighs and let your arms, neck and head relax. Keep your knees as wide as your ankles and breathe. Hold for at least 45 seconds before coming up slowly.
Optional: 3-Minute Meditation
Sit for three minutes in meditation, to reset your focus and balance your energy, before returning to the road.
Kacey Janeen Waxler is a California-based yoga instructor and writer on the hunt for adventure and good stories. Her words can be located amongst noteworthy brands including Corona Extra, Athleta and Darling Magazine, and in the flesh she can be found reading unapologetically from the glow of a headlamp, geeking out over sequencing, or neck deep in a deliciously hot bath. Follow her adventures at @kaceyjaneen or grab her vinyasa sequences that take you on a journey at theflowfix.com.