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Yoga: The journey within for the journeys ahead

On the International Day of Yoga, we offer you seven sure-fire ways to ease your travel aches and strains.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke eloquently about Yoga during his speech at the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014. He said, “Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world, and nature. Changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness can help in well-being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.” And since June 21, 2015, the summer solstice has been recognised by the United Nations as the International Day of Yoga and celebrated internationally.

This physical, mental and spiritual practice, which originated in India, is a powerful tool to empower and enhance one’s life. And while it is a holistic system that must be practiced regularly for the best benefits, it can help to relieve some issues that result from bad posture and discomfort in the short-term as well.

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Yoga can make your journeys more fulfilling and rewarding. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

Yoga and Ayurveda lifestyle specialist Namita Piparaiya knows this better than most. Not only is she an online Yoga guru, with a considerable following on social media as Yoganama and her own personal studio platform Yoganama TV, where she shares her knowledge via streaming video and recorded classes for a variety of clientele. But she’s also an inveterate global traveller, who explored 55 cities, 75,000 km, 1.7 million steps, 24 UNESCO world heritage sites, just in five months of 2019, along with her husband.

“As much as travelling can be a fun and rewarding experience, it can take its toll on the body due to the long hours of sitting, often in cramped spaces. Even time differences can tax our circadian rhythm, sapping us of energy levels. But you don’t have to let these experiences dampen your travel spirit.”

– Namita Piparaiya, @Yoganama

According to her, “Yoga is an accessible practice that can be done anywhere, even in a cramped hotel room. So, if you take out just 15-20 minutes a day for this practice, I’m sure it’ll make your journeys and travels more fulfilling and rewarding.” It certainly helped her keep any travel niggles away during her around-the-world adventures!

Yoga techniques to ease your travel stress

Here are a few Yoga poses and techniques that she recommends, which can help you counter-balance the impact of travel, giving you more time and energy to enjoy your experience.

Twisted Dragon

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The Twisted Dragon stretch releases tight muscles. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

Also called the twisted lizard, this pose is a great full-body stretch as it releases tight hip flexors, spine, and shoulders. All of these muscles can get a bit cramped after long hours of sitting, especially on a long-haul flight.

Bridge Pose

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The Bridge Pose wakes up muscles and strengthens them. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

Bridge Pose strengthens the back of your legs and also resets the lower back. It awakens the glutes and hamstring, which is important as these muscles tend to become dormant easily (particularly the glutes). That’s why it’s important to squeeze the glutes moderately as you lift in bridge pose to get the maximum benefit out of it. You can progress this posture by doing a single-leg bridge – with one leg lifted.

Gate Pose

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The Gate Pose is great for awakening your core. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

This is a wonderful posture that integrates both the lower and upper body as it stretches the hamstrings, torso, shoulders and also awakens the core as you try to stabilise yourself in this position.

Wide-Leg Forward Bend

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When done correctly, the Wide-Leg Forward Bend gives the spine a good stretch. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

Forward bends have a very calming impact on the breath and the body. They also give a good stretch to the spine. However, because of the nature of this posture, it is easy to pull yourself into an excessive stretch and that can result in discomfort in the lower back. So, exercise caution and practice with moderation.

Wall Puppy Pose

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The Wall Puppy Pose helps you breathe better. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

This is a modification of Extended Child Pose and it’s perfect for travellers. The palms are higher than the shoulders, which simulates a gentle backbend. It helps open up the upper back and shoulders which is not only relaxing but also helps you breathe better. The best part is it can be done anywhere as long as you have access to a wall.

Pranayama and Meditation

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Mindful meditation can help you stay calm and travel on. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

Breathing exercises and meditation can be an asset for any traveller as they are relaxing, calming, energising and a great way to use your time when you’re jet lagged. Sleep issues, travel delays, paperwork hassles, and any number of unforeseen events and stresses can interweave themselves into our travel schedule. Mindfulness practices like meditation can help you stay calm, cantered and balanced through all of them.

Corpse Pose

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Rebalance your energies with Shavasana. Image: Courtesy Namita Piparaiya/Yoganama.

For someone with the travel bug, lying still and motionless might be the most counter-intuitive posture. But that’s exactly the reason you must make time for it. Shavasana is a grounding position that helps rebalance your energies. Ayurveda believes that travel leads to the imbalance of Vata or Air elements. This can cause problems like lack of sleep, dry skin, disorientation and dizziness, and erratic digestion. That’s why the complete earthy stillness created by Shavasana is the perfect counter to bring the light and mobile air element under balance.

[All these Yoga postures can be held for up to five to nine breaths. Pranayama and Meditation can be done for five to 15 minutes, depending on your schedule. Shavasana is best done for at least three to five minutes, or longer. It’s important to be mindful in your practice, never do anything that is painful or severely uncomfortable. It’s best to practice moderation and challenge yourself gently to push your limits but never too much.]

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