a blog by Ellen Davies

Yoga for weary travelers

Yoga for weary travelers

So you’ve been traveling, dealing with airlines and crowds, dragging your wheelie suitcase and lugging a tote bag, eating lousy food and drinking bad coffee. You’re spent. You’ve finally made it to your hotel room. You, my dear, need yoga!


But what if your hotel room is too small, or you don’t have a yoga mat? No worries! Here are some yoga poses you can do, right in your hotel room, most of them done while sitting on the hotel bed. Be sure not to skip the last one–it’s the best! 


Begin by sitting on the edge of the bed (or a chair) with both feet on the floor. Take three deep breaths.


Shoulder and Neck Stretches

Start by working some of the tension out of your shoulders and neck. 


Shoulder rolls. Pull your shoulders up to your ears, press them back, then press down, then press forward. Move through these four points, slowly. Spend a few minutes moving in one direction, then reverse. Continue to breathe deeply. Close your eyes, if that’s comfortable, or let the eyes gaze softly down.


Neck stretches, two versions. Sitting up straight, turn your head to the right, as if you were looking over your shoulder. Be careful not to strain–just let it be a gentle stretch. Breathe. Relax the shoulders down. After several breaths, turn your head to the left, and repeat.

Bring your head back to center, then let your right ear drop towards your right shoulder. Again, no strain–just a gentle stretch. Breathe. After a few breaths, place your right hand on your left shoulder, maybe gently pressing down. Stay here for several breaths, imagining all the stress draining away. To come out, bring the right hand to the right side of your head, and gently press up. This way you aren’t straining your neck to lift your head back to center. Repeat on the other side.


Heart openers

Sitting in cramped airline seats causes me to fold inward, as I try to take up as little space as possible. Now it’s time to open that space again. 

Seated Cat/Cow. Sitting up straight, place your hands on your knees. Press your hands into knees and pull your heart forward, gently lifting your chin, as you inhale. As you exhale, roll back, arching the back into a seated Cat, bringing chin to chest. Inhale and move to seated Cow, exhale and flow to Cat. Start off with small movements, then let them gradually become bigger. Imagine lengthening your spine, creating space between the vertebra.

Yoga mudra. Come back to center. Bring your arms behind you and interlace the fingers. (If you can’t reach your hands, grab a hand towel and hold it in the right hand, then reach around and grasp the other end with your left.) Straighten your arms without straining your elbow joints. Lift your arms away from your body, as much as is comfortable. Feel your heart and chest opening. Lift your chin (but don’t drop the head back). Stay here for three to five deep breaths.

Bring your hands in front and interlace the fingers again. Turn the palms out, then raise your arms over your head, pressing the palms to the ceiling. Take three to five deep breaths.


Hip Stretches 

Figuratively speaking, getting the “road dust” out of your hips helps your whole body move with more ease. 

Figure Four. From seated, bring your right ankle to rest on your right thigh, just above your knee. You can use a pillow (or folded towel) under the right knee if you want additional support. Sitting upright, take three deep breaths. If you want to go further, begin to fold forward. Hold for several breaths, then repeat on the left side.

Butterfly pose. This pose is best done on a solid surface, but in a pinch you can do this on the hotel bed. Scoot back a little, then bring the soles of your feet together. Experiment with bringing them closer to your body and then further away, finding the place that’s right for you. Sit upright for three breaths, then fold forward. Hold for another five breaths.



Give your internal organs a little massage with a good twist. This is especially helpful for digestion and elimination.

Reclined twist. Lie down on your back, but upside down–putting your head at the foot of the bed. Pull your right knee into your chest, holding it there for three breaths. Then place the left hand on the right knee and pull it gently to the left side, for a gentle twist. Stay here for three to five breaths. Repeat on the left side.

Hamstring stretch 

If you had limited legroom on the flight, now is the time to stretch out those tight hamstrings.

Staying on your back, find your hand towel and loop it over your right foot, then, holding the edges of the towel in both hands, begin to straighten out the right leg. (Or you can hold onto the foot or your big toe.) You may be able to get it fully straight, or you may need to keep the knee bent. Take three to five breaths, then repeat on the left side.



This is the best one–and this is the one I always do after a long flight. It is amazingly restorative.

Legs up the wall. Still lying on your back, scoot closer to the wall (feet towards the pillows), then place your feet on the wall. If you’re lucky, there will be a headboard, and you can rest your heels there. This pose isn’t about getting the legs straight and perpendicular to your body. This pose is about inversion, moving fluid out of the legs. Find a place where you’re comfortable, and stay there for five minutes. Come out by bringing both knees to your chest, then roll to the side and sit up.

Ahh, now you’re refreshed and ready!


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