If you ever feel the need for a calming, restorative yoga practice, it’s when you’re travelling. Airports and train stations are packed with people rushing to their final destination. The lines for security and concessions seem to extend endlessly, and if you toss in a particularly gruff airline employee or bus driver, forget about it—your stress levels will skyrocket.
The opposite of the kind of stress response travel often induces is what’s called “rest-and-digest,” where blood returns from the limbs (where it was pumping in case we needed to run or flee) to the digestive and reproductive organs. Your heart rate and breathing slow down and your immune system can jump to into action as needed.
One of the styles of yoga believed to activate this rest-and-digest response—a.k.a. the parasympathetic nervous system—is restorative yoga. This style of yoga is marked by the body being fully supported by external props, such as blocks, bolsters, blankets, chairs, and sand bags. Due to its gentle nature, it is used in many therapeutic settings, such as with cancer patients or people in a lot of pain. Because the body is supported, practitioners are able to hold the poses for longer periods. We can also more easily drop into the relaxation response when we’re in passive postures versus more active shapes.
But let’s call a spade a spade: While restorative yoga is a powerful antidote to travel stress, not many of us are stuffing bolsters and yoga blankets into the overhead compartments of a packed airplane or train. So, how can we still benefit from restorative yoga while on the road?
If you have a mat, a few towels, and a wall, you have all that you need. Here’s a 7-pose restorative practice you can do without props:
About the Author
Sarah Ezrin is a yoga teacher in San Francisco. Learn more at sarahezrinyoga.com.