Nothing like a few solid hours in the car to make your back ache, your hamstrings cramp and your hips seize. As the driver, there's not much maneuvering and stretching you can really do during the car ride, but there are definitely a few adjustments you can make for alignment and everyone can participate in some rest stop yoga!
SEATING POSITION: When you're in the car for hours at a time, it's important to think about proper seating position. Though some car seats are naturally more comfortable than others, you can make adjustments for better alignment.
1) Ideally, the hips should be higher than the knees to allow length in the front hip flexors. Use a folded blanket to sit on if you can't adjust the seat accordingly.
2) Sit about arms-length away from the steering column, (for safety and comfort) with shoulders down away from the ears. Most people sit FAR to close.
3) Though many people think good posture means 90º, the back of the seat should not be at a right angle but just slightly reclined, so as not to strain the angle in the lower back.
4) If you have cruise control, use it! You probably already do, but know that the more you can utilize cruise control, the less one leg is left extending for the gas and brake. Setting a speed will help you be more symmetrical, give you better gas mileage and allow you to move around a bit.
5) Make tiny adjustments to your overall position as you drive to keep from cramping up.
FOR YOUR ACHING BACK:
When I'm driving, one of the first places I feel discomfort is my lower back. A tight lower back can contribute to sore hips and hamstrings, so this is a good place to start.
Ragdoll Pose: Fold forward with the chin tucked to the chest, lengthening and stretching from the tailbone. REALLY let the knees bend here to get the back stretch. Otherwise, you'll be stretching your hamstrings.
Child's Pose: Knees wide or close, tops of toes touching. Rounding out the whole spine in this way feels great after being seated.
FOR THE HAMSTRINGS:
As a runner, my hammys are already challenged, so sitting for long periods of time is a surefire way to shorten them even further.
Downward Facing Dog: Hit up a Down Dog to open the backs of the legs. Focus on getting the tailbone up high, bending the knees if you need to. You can also try a supported version by just propping your hands on your car.
Bonus spinal and shoulder stretch, too! Ahh...
Pyramid Pose: Keep both hip bones pointing forward to assure proper pelvic alignment. For less stretch, scoot the feet closer together, for more, widen them front to back. Breathe!
FOR THOSE HIPS:
Nothing will make you cranky like tight hips.
Stacked Log Pose: Knees bend at a right angle (or less, if tight) stacking one leg on top of the other. This will probably feel intense, but amazing after a long trip.Bonus: If you're a passenger, you can practice this one right in the car!
I would save this one for when you arrive at your destination because I can assure you, you will NOT want to get back in the car.
Pigeon Pose: Aaaaaw yeeeeah! Be sure the foot stayed flexing in toward your shin.
When in doubt, just shake it out as best you can. Squirming around and doing whatever feels good is usually quite effective. Just remember that breathing is STILL the most important part so that all these sore muscles can get the oxygen and blood they need to relax. Hope you all can get away sometime and relax, too! Namaste!