What happens when you sit in a car for hours at a time, driving long distances across varied landscapes? Rounded shoulders? Stiff neck? Tight chest?
All that lovely work I did with backbends in those wonderful yoga classes in Florida – all erased in a mindless drive across country… but no, it is not true. Driving does not have to be mindless, and backbend principles can be applied while in the driver’s seat.
Backbends in the Car, While Driving
Alright, the only wheel here is the one you will hold on to while driving. But the principles of alignment that teach you how to do the pose called wheel, and how to do any back bend, regardless of level, can be used to prevent that rounded shoulder, achy, travel-induced stiffness.
Try this: Place your hands at 8:0o and 4:00 on the steering wheel, with palms facing you. Keeping your elbows near your sides, draw the wheel gently toward you (no, it shouldnt really move!) while you open your chest forward, lifting your sternum through your arms toward the wheel.
Roll your shoulders back, drawing your shoulder blades toward each other, and let them drop down toward your waist as you settle back in to the seat. Imagine the lower tips of your shoulder blades (inferior angle of the scapula for you anatomy buffs) gently moving in toward your spine.
Now, with your chest open, don’t let your ribs pop out. Draw your lower ribs gently back toward the seat behind you. As you do so, feel your tail bone drop down toward your seat, draw gently upwards from your low belly, and lengthen up through your spine.
If you have the seat or a headrest behind your head, very gently press the back of your head against it to encourage the normal curve in your neck. If there is nothing behind your head, just think about lining it up with your sacrum, so you are not letting it jut forward off the spine.
Now breathe. Fill your lungs and feel your rib cage expand in all directions. Your neck should feel free and easy, your shoulders soft and relaxed, spine long and no unsightly rounding through the upper back and neck.
Too many words? They don’t make sense? No worries, try bits and pieces of it. The thing about learning new alignment is that you learn it bit by bit. Sometimes your body understands it before your mind does, so just play. Explore the sensations as you move your body into a new posture.
You can do this at a desk at work, or sitting on the floor with your back against the wall, or even lying down. The principles are all the same.
Just a word of warning, and a bit of a disclaimer: If you try this while driving, please make sure you are still paying attention to the road, and do not, I repeat, do not close your eyes to feel the sensations!
Wishing you happy back bending practice wherever you are, with a namaste sent to you from somewhere in Oklahoma, at the end of an open-hearted day 4 on the road.