Stretch It Out – 9 Easy and Effective Stretches for Travellers

Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Welcome to Vancouver! You’ve been in a plane, train, or automobile for a while and it’s time to get moving and exploring. Or maybe get to your first meeting/workshop at the Convention Centre. But first, let’s get out all the kinks – travel is hard on the body!

You know what I mean. Stiff neck from sleeping at a weird angle (even with a neck pillow!) Sore back and shoulders from sitting in the awkward seats. Tight legs and hips from sitting too long. Hands and feet feeling heavy. The interesting thing is that you can feel much of the same after playing tourist and being on your feet all day. Go figure.

BC Place view | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

So what can you do about it? One word: stretch. You might not have time to get to a yoga class at one of Vancouver’s many fantastic studios, so here are some easy and effective stretches* you can do in your hotel room. They are also great to do after exploring and walking around all day.)

*Though these stretches are all gentle, if you have any pre-existing injuries or conditions, it’s important to check in with your doctor(s) before trying any new physical activities.

Quad Stretch

Why: Sitting for long periods of time can cause tightness in the hip flexors and front of legs. 

Using your suitcase handle, wall or the back of a chair for balance, shift your weight over to the right foot. Keeping the legs together, bend your left knee so that you can reach behind you with your left hand to grab your left ankle or top of foot. Gently bring the heel towards your bum and say hello to your quads and hip flexors! Hold for 10-20 seconds and switch to the other leg. Repeat 2-3 times on each side. (If you want to get a bit deeper into your hip flexors, a runner’s lunge is fantastic, but perhaps a bit showy in the airport.)

Quad Stretch | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Neck Stretch

Why: If you slept on the plane, you’ll feel why. A neck pillow does only so much!

Slowly tilting the head from side to side (holding for 5-10 seconds on each side) or doing some slow neck rolls are brilliant and gentle ways to stretch the sides of the neck.
Remember to also gently shake the head from side to side and nod the chin up and down a few times to get into the front and back of the neck. Always be gentle. Despite the neck’s strength in supporting the heaviest part of our body (the head), it’s also one of the most delicate parts of the body.

Neck Stretch | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Shoulder Rolls

Why: Gets the kinks out of the neck and shoulders. 

Roll the shoulders up back and down. Do this slowly, taking the time to get into the tightness between the neck and shoulders. After as many as you like, reverse directions, bringing the shoulders up, forward and down.

Ankle Rolls

Why: The edge of your seat at the back of your knees can slow down circulation, so it’s important to keep things moving. 

Take your shoes off and roll your ankles around. (I like to spell the alphabet with my feet, but that’s just me!) This also beneficial to do while on the plane.


Jazz Hands and Wrist Rolls

Why: Like with the legs, circulation in the arms can also be affected by being on the plane or sitting for a long time.

Put your hands up in the air and spread the fingers wide. Roll the wrists around. If you’re doing this on the plane or in the airport, don’t worry about looking silly, you are doing something good for yourself.

Doorway Stretch

Why: Travelling can slouch us over a little bit with the seats and hauling around of luggage. Opening up the pecs and fronts of the shoulders will feel fantastic after all of that.

Stand with your hand flat on a doorjamb or the wall. Pretend your body is a door and ‘open’ it away from the hand. Hold for 10-20 ten seconds and switch sides. Repeat. Another way to open up the shoulder and chest is is to stand in a doorway with your hands placed inside the doorjamb at shoulder height. Gently lean forward and feel your shoulder blades come together on your back, Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat 2-3 more times

Open Door Stretch | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Seated Twist

Why: Twists are good for spinal health and also for digestion. 

Sitting tall on a chair with the feet flat on the ground, turn your upper body to the right, holding the right armrest or side edge of the seat.  Take a deep breath and as you exhale, pull the belly in an use your hands to gently deepen your twist. Hold for 2-3 breaths and come back to the centre. Repeat on the other side.

Seated Twist | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Forward Fold

Why: Forward fold is an excellent way to loosen up the hamstrings and decompress the spine.

Make sure to keep a bend in the knees to support the lower back. This stretch can be done standing or seated. If you want to also get into the hips and glutes, sit in a chair and cross your ankle at your knee. Lean forward and let the head relax. (Make sure to do both sides.) Sitting on the floor with your legs in a diamond shape and leaning forward from the hips will stretch both hips at the same time.

Forward Fold | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Legs Up the Wall

Why: This is a really wonderful way to decompress the spine, increase circulation, and make feet feel less heavy(Legs up the wall is this writer’s favourite stretch!)

Either on the floor or on your bed, scooch your lower body flush with the wall. Roll onto your back and extend your legs your legs up the wall. (There’s no way to be graceful about this. Don’t worry about it.) Bend your knees as much as needed to support the lower back. Placing a pillow or cushion under the lower back also feels nice. Arms can be by your side with palms facing up, or hands resting on your belly. Lifting the hands up in the air while doing this also feels good. You will feel the blood moving from your hands and feet back down to the heart. If you feel some tingling, bend the knees and elbows a bit. To come out of this pose, walk your feet down the wall, hug your knees, and over to your side.

Legs up the wall | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Legs up the wall with hands in the air | Photo Credit: Jana Josue

Once you’re done, get outside – there’s so much for you to visit! If you’re wanting a stroll, we’ve got you covered. And remember to stretch afterwards!

Make sure to share your Vancouver wellness experiences by tagging us @inside_vancouver and #VeryVancouver on Instagram!

Photoshoot Location: Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton – Downtown Vancouver (111 Robson Street)

Photos: Jana Josue | JJosue Photography

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