Yoga, as taught by Anne Marie Welsh at the Community Center in my hometown, changed my life. It’s not just the way she demonstrates the asanas that make her special, it’s her affirmations and soothing words that set her apart from other instructors.
In addition to being a yoga teacher, Anne Marie is also a traveler, so she knows the challenges we face. In her first post for Authentic Luxury Travel, Anne Marie described yoga poses that can be done inflight. In this post, she addresses the ways yoga can help when adjusting to a new location.
Anne Marie combines her love of travel and her talent for teaching yoga by leading personalized, small-group Deep Yoga Retreats that include authentic connections to the cultural life of some of the world’s most appealing destination. In September 2016, these adventures will include week-long stays in Provence, France, and Tuscany, Italy.
Yoga for travelers: staying grounded at destination
By Anne Marie Welsh
When we travel, the climate, landscapes, people, languages and accommodations can change radically in a matter of hours. Exciting as this can be for those of us who love seeing the world and all its splendors, that sense of flux — even shifts in barometric pressure—can pull us off center. A short yoga ritual performed when we arrive and repeated every morning, can ground and balance us again, helping create a sense of home and a feeling of calm. By literally staying close to the ground and surrendering to it, we trust the support beneath us and can release into each new destination. I have also described a restorative yoga pose that will help any traveler relax into stillness before sleep.
Getting grounded with yoga
Easy Pose: Start by placing a few pillows or a folded blanket on the floor and lowering yourself to sit on the support. If your hips are fairly flexible, your legs can be crossed in so-called Easy Pose; if not, one leg can be bent and the other straight ahead, or both extended forward. You may want your back against a wall or the bed if you need help to sit tall for a few minutes. Be aware of your hips rooting downward and your spine rising up as you lift your heart but drop your shoulders away from the ears.
Now gently close your eyes and become aware of your breath. Keep bringing your awareness back to your breath, as you breathe in through the nose and out through the nose, gradually deepening the inhale and lengthening the exhale. Continue this deep, steady, aware breathing for several minutes as you lengthen your spine and open your hips, creating space and enhancing blood flow.
Cat-Cow: Now roll over onto your hands and knees, spreading your fingers wide beneath your shoulders, keeping your hips in line with your knees. (You may like a pillow, folded towel or blanket under your knees if they are tender.) On an exhale, pull your navel in, push into your hands, release your head and tailbone down, and curl your spine up like a cat. On the next inhale, release the belly down, bring the heart forward and lift the head and tailbone. Repeat this movement, arching and extending the spine (cat-cow) slowly and fully for at least five long deep breaths.
Child’s Pose: On the last cat pose, stay on your knees, but begin to move your tailbone and hips toward your heels to rest in child’s pose (Balasana). Bring your big toes together and your knees apart, allowing the torso to release down, nestled between the legs. Arms can be stretched ahead as you let each exhale release your hips a little closer to the heels. Breathe and enjoy the release of this yoga posture.
Crocodile Pose/Cactus Variation: Come out of child’s pose on to your belly with your right cheek on the floor so you are facing left. Bend the elbows and slide them along the floor until they are level with the shoulders, forearms at a 90 degree angle to the upper arms, palms down in what’s called cactus position. Surrender to gravity here as you breathe deeply, letting the shoulders drop away from the spine toward the floor. After five to ten breaths, lift your head and turn your left cheek to the mat and face right. Bend the right knee and slide it along the floor until it is in line with the right hip. Your lower leg should be at a 90 degree angle to your thigh, so the right leg is also in a cactus or frog position. Keep breathing deeply, allowing your hips to sink deeper toward the floor with every exhale. Visualize your breath moving towards any muscle in the right hip, buttock or thigh that “wants” to let go. Keep breathing like this, letting go, for at least a minute. Then slide the right leg back down, turn the right cheek to the mat to face left. Slide the left knee up to hip level and repeat the breathing, allowing the left inner thigh and hip to release for at least a minute. Then roll over onto your back and rest for a moment.
Bridge Pose: This yoga posture involves a gentle backbend that opens the chest, encourages spinal flexibility and can reestablish the natural curves of the spine after a long trip. Lying on your back, with arms close to your sides and palms facing down, bend the knees and bring the feet to the floor hips-width apart, your heels a comfortable distance away from your seat. On an inhale, press through the feet (especially the big-toe side), the forearms and shoulders, lightly engage your gluteal muscles, and lift and extend the hips up off the floor. Keep the neck long. On an exhale release your spine slowly back to the ground, your tailbone reaching towards the heels. Repeat the lifting and extending back down three to five times, using the inhale to slowly lift and the exhale to release down.
Supine Twist with Cactus Arms:After releasing from Bridge Pose, stay on your back with knees bent, bend your elbows and keep them level with your shoulders along the floor, bringing your arms into a cactus position, forearms at a 90 degree angle to your upper arms, palms facing up. Wiggle your feet out until they are wider than your hips. Exhale to drop your knees towards the left, keeping your shoulders and arms rooted on the ground. Hold for five deep breaths. Return knees to neutral and then drop them over to the right. Repeat. When you have moved knees to both sides several times, keep both feet widely planted while you let the knees drop towards one another. Rest and neutralize your low back while you breathe. When you are ready, find your way to standing.
Wide-Legged Forward Bend:This pose is excellent for lengthening the back body from the heels all the way to the crown of the head. The wide stance offers a gentle stretch for the hamstrings, as well as an inversion because the head is below the heart. (Note: Those with high blood pressure or eye issues should not practice such yoga inversions.)With legs wide apart and feet parallel, lengthen the spine, then fold the upper body forward from the hips, letting your neck release and your head go. Keep the knees soft or lightly bent if your back is tender. Observe whether you are rolling in or out on your feet and try to adjust. Watch the tendency of the pelvis to drift back, trying to keep the pelvis and hips in line with the heels. Allow the weight of your head to traction your spine forward, creating space between the vertebrae. If your fingertips do not touch the floor, place a pillow on the floor or touch your shins lightly to maintain your balance as you breathe deeply 5–10 breaths, letting go. Slowly and carefully curl back up to standing, letting your head come up last. Bring feet back together, and stand strongly, pressing through the feet, lifting through the belly and breathing deeply for a moment or two.
A restorative yoga posture for sleep
Legs-Up-The-Wall-Pose: Many yogis consider this posture a cure-all not just for insomnia, but for all that ails you. You will need a small pillow or cushion or twice folded blanket. Place that support on the floor 4-6 inches from the wall, then sit to the right of it with your left hip close to the wall. Rotate your hips towards the wall onto the support, while also lifting your legs and releasing your shoulders and torso down to the floor. You will be lying on your back with legs up the wall, your hips and pelvis supported. The distance of your seat from the wall will depend on your flexibility and your height. Experiment with this distance and with the placement of the support until you feel completely comfortable and sense your spine “dripping” away from the support. Your heels should be above you on the wall, feet hips-width distance apart, and legs relaxed. Be certain that your pelvis is supported by the cushion or blanket. Let your arms be at your sides, palms facing up to relax your shoulder blades. (Note: This is a yoga inversion and therefore not for those with eye or blood pressure issues.)
Stay here, breathing fully and letting go, enjoying the reversal of blood flow and stress-releasing benefits of this yoga posture, for five to ten minutes. Come out of the posture by letting the knees bend and feet slide down towards you as you roll over onto one side. Stay there for a bit, then slowly lift yourself to sitting and eventually standing.
When you turn in for the night, you may find greater comfort if you place a rolled towel or small round pillow under your neck just below the nape. The prop will keep your chin from tilting back and compressing your cervical vertebrae.
In all of these Yoga for Travelers postures, the goal is to breathe smoothly and deeply into the bottom of the lungs, creating space in the joints and between the vertebrae, filling yourself with fresh oxygen and prana (your life force) on each in-breath and releasing all that’s toxic or stale as you relax and soften on the out-breath.
Whatever else you may do to stay grounded, remember that you are rooted to the earth by gravity and remain aware that you are inhaling and exhaling the precious breath of life wherever you may be.
Anne Marie Welsh leads small group Deep Yoga retreats that immerse participants in the authentic life, culture, food and wine of beautiful and inspiring places. You can see photos and testimonials and learn more about her heart-opening 2016 retreats in PROVENCE, FRANCE, September 3-10, 2016 and TUSCANY, ITALY, September 11-17, 2016 at http://www.annemariewelsh.com/retreats.php.
In 2017, she’ll return to India and explore Bali through the soulful practices of Deep Yoga. Join her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Mind and Spirit