How to look after your back while on the road


When my students have a back-pain relapse, it’s often after a long car journey. Sitting still for a long time and in a slouchy position can indeed cause the back muscles to tighten and hurt. Because we can’t always avoid long-distance driving, it’s good to know some tips and yoga stretches that can prevent back tightness and pain. Read on if you would like to know how to look after your back while on the road.

1. Your posture — avoid slouching in the car

Firstly, adopt the best possible posture in the car, which means keeping the back as straight as you can. ‘Straight’ for the back means that you honour the spine’s natural curves. Very unhealthy for the spine is to round it completely, in a slouchy position with the shoulders slumping and the chin jutting forward. Unfortunately, most car seats position the hips lower than your knees and cause the back to round. To correct the way these bucket seat make us sit, use different cushions to:
a) raise the hips higher than your knees or at least have the knees and hips on the same level.
b) support the lower back so the natural curve of the lower back is supported.
Your use of cushions depends on how the car seat itself can be repositioned. Once you. have your cushions, sit on the centre of the sitting bones, rest your lower back against a cushion and lift the chest. The latter is to avoid rounding shoulders and a forward head position.

Just keep these three principles in mind: hips level or higher than the knees, lower back supported and chest lifted.

2. Take frequent breaks

Don’t allow your back to tighten by sitting for more than an hour in the same position. It may seem too frequent, especially if you are eager to arrive, but it is best to take a break every hour. The break doesn’t have to be long, just a few minutes to walk around and loosen up your body.

3. Stretches to do underway

Introduce some targeted stretches every few hours. Before starting them, walk around and loosen up. Stretching too enthusiastically after sitting in a fixed position for a while is too abrupt for the back. Once you have released your body a little by walking around, try the following stretches for the legs and the back. Stretching the legs is important because the leg muscles tighten when sitting for long periods and this has a negative effect on the back. Please don’t do the stretch if it hurts or do it more gently: pain is no gain!

Stretch the quads

Hold one leg behind you (or place your foot on a ledge). Make sure you keep the tailbone tucked under. Tucking the tailbone is done by tilting the pelvis forward slightly and is essential to keep the lower back muscles lengthened during the stretch.


Stretch the hip flexors

Take a big step forward and placing the back knee on the ground. With both hands on the front knee, bring the weight forward as you exhale. Inhale and return to the original position. Do this a few times, slowly, on both sides.


Stretch the sides of the body

While standing, raise one arm up and lengthen it slightly to the side. Don’t go as far as you can but think more of lengthening upward. Keep both feet firmly down. Avoid this stretch if you’ve had pain as a result of a herniated disc in the last 3 months.


Stretch the glutes

Sit down and place one foot above the other knee. If you want more stretch, lean forward with a straight spine. Breathe into the stretch and stay for up to a minute. You can bring the lower foot further forward for less of a stretch. Repeat on the other side.


Stretch the inner thigh muscles

Start with the legs wide and then bend one leg and move the body over the bent leg. Stay for a few breaths and then move to the other side.


Stretch the back

Lean forward against the car. Use the higher variety or skip this one if you’ve had a herniated disc or if your back pain is acute. The hips are above the feet in this practice so bring the feet the right distance away from the car. The aim is to lengthen the spine and you will also feel the hamstrings stretch. Bending the legs is fine, as this will allow the back to elongate more. Avoid pushing the middle back or shoulders down, instead imagine that the crown of the head is pulled forward and the tailbone backward.


Stretch the shoulders

and surprise the other drivers by clasping the hands behind your back and turning upside down with the arms straight up.


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