You know how sometimes certain memories stick with you vividly? Here’s one of mine. Years back, on one of our very first RV trips ever…even before we were “The Fit RV”, James and I were camping in the Grand Canyon. We’d already spent the day doing some intense hiking and were back at the campsite happily grilling up dinner. As I was chopping veggies at the picnic table, a trailer with Washington plates pulled in to the campsite next to us. After the couple worked to get pulled in and leveled, the gentleman immediately pulled out two lawnchairs. The couple sat down. I remember being curious about that. After all, they’d just arrived. Didn’t they have some set up tasks to do or something? An hour later, they were STILL sitting. Beyond dragging a cooler over by their lawnchairs, they hadn’t made a single move puttering around their trailer or setting up their campsite! They were still sitting after we’d eaten and cleaned up from dinner, and I was just beside myself with curiosity. How come right after arriving all they were doing was more sitting?
I’ve since figured it out. It’s the Long Drive Syndrome. While cross country driving isn’t physically taxing, it can sure feel that way. Long drives can leave us feeling drained, foggy-brained, and unmotivated. THAT’S why they sat.
In fact, there are actual physiological responses happening inside the body that give us that groggy feeling after a long drive; for both the driver and the passenger. For instance, your inactive lower body muscles send a signal to your brain to slow your metabolism. Your blood circulation slows as well, which leads to all sorts of ill-effects: raised blood sugar levels, fluid pooling in the lower legs, inflammation, amongst many other joyful things.
Yoga is a great way to counterbalance the effects of Long Drive Syndrome.
Sure, we usually think of yoga as a way to relax and soothe, but certain poses can also energize and rejuvenate. Yoga’s uplifting benefits start with poses that open your chest up. We sit (and even tend to sleep) with the spine and hips rounded. In contrast, chest opening poses stretch and extend the spine and hips. The body assumes you’re preparing it for action, so it responds accordingly, stimulating blood flow and energizing the nervous system. So much for longing for that lawn chair!
If you’re in need of a burst of energy on your next RV trip, here are some of my favorite energizing poses. And if you’re new to yoga don’t worry, these are beginner-friendly, so go ahead and give them a try!
- Step the feet wide apart, with arms out to your sides and palms down. Your feet should be under the wrists, facing forward and parallel.
- Pull up your knee caps and forcefully hold your thighs squeezed tightly, as if you were bringing them together.
- Reach out through the fingertips, trying to elongate your arms as far out to the sides as possible. Set your shoulders down and back, gently sticking out your chest.
- Tilt your head up slightly holding your neck long, so that your chin is parallel to the floor.
- Inhale deeply into the belly and chest, and then with your exhale, imagine yourself expanding out in 5 directions (head, arms, legs).
- Hold for about one minute.
- Stand facing a wall about 2 feet away with your feet directly aligned under your hips.
- Place your palms flat against the wall so that your arms are parallel with the ground. Then, bring elbows and forearms to the wall. The tips of your fingers down to your elbows should be perfectly vertical.
- Keeping your legs straight, drive your hips back as far as you can without allowing your back to round. Press the hips up and back. Keep the spine straight and long, reaching up high through the tailbone. If you’re having a hard time keeping your back from rounding, slightly bend your knees.
- Breathe slowly and mindfully and hold the pose for about a minute.
- Stand facing a wall with your right foot a few inches from the wall and your left foot 3 or 4 feet back, so you’re in a lunge position.
- Turn your left foot about 90 degrees out so the toes are pointing out to the left. Align your front heel with the arch of your back foot.
- Bend your right knee over your right ankle, trying to keep your shin perpendicular to floor.
- Align your hips so that they are facing forward.
- Place your left hand on the wall for support. Reach your right arm up and slightly back, keeping your shoulder dropped away from your ear.
- Open your chest and elongate your sides. Tilt your head slightly up.
- Hold for about a minute and then repeat on the other side.
- Stand in a plank position against a wall, with your palms flat against the wall and your arms straight. Your feet should be farther out from the wall than your shoulders. The farther out your feet, the more challenging the pose.
- Raise your right leg straight up behind you and your left arm up straight off the wall.
- Keep your hips down and aligned with your body. Your back should be flat, and your neck should be neutral (not over flexed or extended).
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and then switch to the other side.