Let’s face it — Atlanta traffic really can be bad, and the recent I-85 bridge collapse has only added more time (and frustration) to the daily commute. Repairs to the section of I-85 that collapsed in a fire in late March are expected to be completed by late May. But more time in a car doesn’t have to be all bad, and there really is a way to relax while stuck in traffic.
Here are six safe, driver-friendly yoga exercises you can do while in traffic (provided by Amber Barry, owner of Westside Yoga, www.westsideyoga.net), in Atlanta.
1. Just breathe. In yoga, the breath controls our prana (life force). Yogis believe how we breathe affects the quality of our life. With this in mind, use your time in the car to breathe deeply. Deep inhales help bring more oxygen to the brain, the blood and the muscles, and long exhales help us release energy that does not serve us. Focused breathing creates a relaxation response that will help you arrive at your destination with a clear head and happy heart.
2. Be mindful.Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention. While driving, put away your phone, turn off the radio, and pay attention to your environment. Notice as many details as possible — the colors of the cars around you, the feel of the air against your skin, the sound of the traffic on the road. Use your five senses to keep you in the present moment.
3. Repeat a mantra. True happiness comes from quieting the mind and making peace with our circumstances, whatever they may be. You might repeat “it is what it is” in your mind or aloud — a great reminder that we must accept what we can’t change. Or you might try “so hum,” a Sanskrit mantra that means “I am that” and can evoke peace. Simply repeat your mantra over and over in your mind, or speak it out loud, for as long as you can.
4. Stretch what you can. If you find yourself stopped in traffic, keep your foot on the brake and draw your ear to your shoulder, or turn your head from side to side. You might try circling the neck, too. Anything to counteract the effects of the typing and texting we do so often. We can also do a lot to stretch and tone the muscles in the face, which can counteract the effects of aging and help us feel more relaxed. Smile, and then frown, circle the jaw, open the eyes wide — you might be surprised by how great it feels.
5. Practice biofeedback. Biofeedback is a method for releasing tension from the body naturally. It works on all of the major muscles of the body, and is as simple as squeezing the muscle, and holding to the count of 10, and then releasing. Make a tight fist, squeezing the shoulders up to the ears, or flex the wrists — these are just a few examples of biofeedback techniques that can work in the car.
6. Repeat. Many yoga poses can be performed while seated, and the more we practice, the more likely we are to feel an increase in energy, a release for tight muscles, and a greater sense of well-being.
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