Best thing I learned on my holidays? Long car rides don’t hurt any more

Foxton Beach, on New Zealand’s North Island. Photo: Alan James


I’m back from New Zealand and looking forward to starting a new session of Spineful Yoga on Sunday mornings at 10 am and Mondays at 5:30 pm.

Apart from the reassurance that summer does exist, somewhere on the planet, the trip gave me an unexpected gift of perspective. Slow and steady change can be hard to keep track of. Sometimes you need a chance to compare and contrast.

This was a briefer version of a trip we took in early January of 2016, three months before Spinefulness entered my life. On that trip, we were exploring the North Island, which meant days of driving down windy roads in a rented white SUV. As the passenger, I sat with my legs crossed. It felt comfortable. I was a yoga teacher, after all, with super-flexible hips. What other way would I sit?

What wasn’t so comfortable was the jolt of pain I felt whenever I got out of the car, or stood up from a chair after a meal. And then there was the nagging pain in my groin and back when we went for a long walk.

In those pre-Spineful yoga days, I always packed a travel mat, two (hollow) wood bricks and a strap – everything I needed for a practice. Every morning and evening I did what I could to ease the pain. I always felt much better after practice, at least until the next long car ride.

Fast forward three years: more travel days down windy roads in a rented white SUV. But instead of sitting cross-legged, I sat with my pelvis rolled forward, into place. I hitched to lengthen my spine whenever I felt the need, kept both feet on the floor, and relaxed. The result: comfort in the car, a mild twinge or two after the longest trips, and nothing more.

On this trip, I brought a tennis ball and a wool roll. Five minutes every morning of rolling my sacrum on a tennis ball at the wall took care of any twinges, five more gave me a pleasurable sense of ease in my hips.

I’d pretty much forgotten that I used to be in pain after long drives. This trip brought it into focus. I used to have a physical problem that threatened to limit my travels. Now it’s gone, simply because I’ve learned how to sit well in a car.

Could some of your aches and pains be as easily resolved by learning how to live in line with gravity?

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