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Become a calm, mindful driver with these stress-reducing tips from yoga instructor YuMee Chung.Driving downtown or on a highway during rush hour is a recipe for anxiety and a sore back, but it’s possible to crush discomfort with a few simple body and breathing exercises. Toronto-based yoga instructor YuMee Chung brought us into the brand-new Ford Edge to show us how.
1. Adjust your posture
Start with your butt pushed all the way into the bottom of the seat and adjust the seat distance so that you’re close enough to the wheel to “feel upright and supported,” says Chung. Make sure that the back of your head touches your headrest, then lift your shoulders up to your ears, scoop them toward your chair back and “slip your shoulder blades down like you’re trying to put them in the pocket of jeans,” mentions Chung. Ensure that your head, ribs and pelvis are all stacked in a straight line, one over the next. Every inch that you lean your head forward past your shoulders and ribs will add an extra 10 pounds of weight that your neck will have to support—a recipe for a tense neck and shoulders.
2. Try the monkey grip
Yes, the way you grip the steering wheel matters! Rather than holding it with your thumbs wrapped around (like holding a bouquet of flowers), place your thumbs on top of the wheel with the rest of your fingers. This new grip will discourage clutching the wheel hard and will also prevent your thumbs from getting broken in the case of a strong impact.
3. Relax your wrists
If your wrists feel sore as you’re driving, you can pull over and do a few quick wrist exercises. Try the “begging dog,” a motion in which you make fists and bend your wrists all the way forward, then open your hands and bend your wrists back as though you’re lifting the roof off the car. Next, do a few figure eights. Finally, shake your hands out slowly, then faster, then even faster. This exercise will also help if your hands get cold from lack of circulation.
4. Breathe mindfully
Most of us tend to take shallow, superficial breaths, which can encourage anxious thoughts. Instead, try breathing deeply. Inhale through your nose slowly for approximately six counts until your lungs are full, then exhale through your nose for approximately eight counts—so a little bit longer than your time spent inhaling. “This breathing can take you from anxiety-ridden to feeling grounded in your body,” says Chung. “It takes three to five rounds to feel it. Ten rounds is even better.”
5. Stretch it out
Chung offers three techniques for relaxing your body and decreasing the tension that builds up during stressful driving. Only attempt these moves when safely stopped.
a) Turn your head all the right, then all the way to the left. Then take your right ear all the way over to your right shoulder and turn your nose down toward your right armpit. Repeat on the left side.
b) Slide forward a couple inches from your chair back. Now take your left hand across to your middle console and allow your right forearm to rest on your chair back. Pull with your left hand and push with your right elbow and look back over your right shoulder. Keep lifting the back ribs on the left side. The crown of your head should reach up as though you’re trying to touch the roof of the car. Release. Perform the twist on the other side.
c) Step out of the car. Stand a couple of feet away from the front of the car and bend over, placing both hands on the car. Let your head fall. It’s almost like a “getting frisked pose,” says Chung. Relax your head and let your heart space fall toward the earth below you. Puff out your back with breath as though you’re spreading your shoulder blades apart and pull your tailbone upward so that the upper back of your legs feels a stretch.
Try one or a few of these techniques and ensure that your commute is just a wee bit more zen.
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