Yoga teacher Elaine Masters has a solution to cope with the aches and stiffness that arise from being in one position for too long at work or on the daily commute.
“We’re seated so often in a compressed 90-degree angle. We’re crunching forward, which impacts our breathing, our circulation, our digestion. And our muscles start to shrink and compact. We age more quickly,” said Masters.
Her concept, Drivetime Yoga, incorporates breathing, stretching and ergonomic awareness. It was first designed to help drivers behind the wheel remain calm and pain-free.
But Masters said Drivetime Yoga can be used anywhere, sitting or standing.
“If you’re sitting in front of a computer, in the office, on a plane or a bus or train, these are small targeted movements and breath work that help to release tension,” she said.
On a New York City subway, "you can pull around to do a twist by pushing against the railing or wall,” said Masters, who recommends stretching into and leveraging your space every 20 minutes.
“It’s very important to move and stretch and change positions so that we can open up, which will also help us to be more flexible in our mind and body,” she said.
After first moving to San Diego in 2005, Masters found herself stressed on the road, while stuck in gridlock traffic.
That's when Masters started stretching at stoplights.
Today she has a head-to-toe system that she said leaves one feeling more grounded, re-energized, and relaxed while preventing back pain and easing neck, shoulder and hip aches.
Masters said Drivetime Yoga is safe.
“These are very small, very targeted movements. They will help you to be a more focused and present driver.”
But if you’re shy about stretching in public, focus on your breath, breathe consciously while exhaling fully.
Master’s exercises are detailed in her book, “Drivetime Yoga.” And there will be more travel wellness tips in her next book, scheduled to come out next spring.
For now, here are three starter stretches:
1. Standing -- Opens spine
Soften your knees while reaching up with both hands and pull your hips down. Hold and breathe.
2. Sitting -- Opens back and hips
With your feet flat on the ground, fold forward slightly. Rest your elbows on your thighs and stretch forward while gently pulling your tailbone down. Relax your neck and head -- hold and breathe into the stretch.
“You can do this even if you’re shy and you don’t want to call attention to yourself,” said Masters.
3. At stoplights (for passengers only) -- Serves as a side opener and provides arm-through-shoulder relief
Breathe and exhale as you reach up and across to the other side. Leverage your space to push against and increase the stretch up the side of your torso – “one of the top places where people experience compression pain from driving,” said Masters.