Moving day can be hectic. Where does this go? Where did my packing and loading helpers run off to? When on earth am I going to find time to clean? Panicked thoughts can clog your mind and make you forget to pause and breathe, let alone take care of your body.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to get through a move without tossing your well-being out the window. “Be kind to yourself. Moving can be stressful, so take your time,” says Alix Emery, a yoga instructor at The Body Electric Yoga Studio in St. Petersburg, Florida. “Listen to your body, know when to ask for help, and know when to rest.”
Alix is a certified Hatha and Rocket Vinyasa instructor who focuses on core strength, breathing, and patience in movement. We asked her to share some yoga exercises for those of us in the middle of moving, to prepare and then heal our bodies, and help relax during an otherwise chaotic time. Be sure to check with your healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen, and don’t be afraid to avoid any positions that cause discomfort.
Before You Get Moving
Get into the habit of doing yoga several days before your move. It's important to get used to doing yoga to reduce stress ahead of time, so on moving day it comes naturally as a way to release tension. Cat-Cow Pose is great to begin with, helping to loosen up your spine while stretching your back and torso. It’s great for releasing neck tension, too.
To start your Cat-Cow, kneel on an exercise mat, or the floor, if comfortable. Set your hands and knees on the ground, hip-width apart. Make sure your hands are facing forward and are directly under your shoulders. Your knees should be directly under your hips as well. Look straight ahead.
Inhale, raise your chin, and tilt your head back like you’re laughing. Raise your tailbone and push your navel down. Take long, deep breaths for 10 to 15 seconds, aiming to hold the posture for at least five breaths.
As you exhale, drop your chin to your chest. Arch your back up as much as you can. Hold this pose for another 10 to 15 seconds, and again, take deep, full breaths.
Return to where you started with a flat back. Continue to arch and bow your back, alternating between these poses for five or six rounds. You should be feeling much looser now, we hope!
Keep Calm and Child’s Pose On
Child’s Pose can both help you avoid lower-back injury and keep your cool when the stress starts to pile up. Do this stretch in the days leading up to your move, during, and after to reduce as much tension as possible from all the moving activities. No need to quit yoga once moving day is behind you!
Child’s Pose stretches out your hips, thighs, shoulders, and back while also relieving stress and fatigue. Who doesn’t need more of that in their daily routine?
Start by kneeling on the floor. Bring your knees together and rest your buttocks on your feet. Slowly exhale and walk your hands forward until your chest rests on the tops of your thighs and your forehead touches the ground. Reach forward, and let your hands grip the mat or floor so you can feel your shoulders stretching and the back of your torso lengthening.
Hold this pose for five to eight breaths, feel those chaotic thoughts slip away for the moment, and repeat whenever you need to inject a little calm into your day.
Stay Limber While You Work to Help Avoid Injury
When you’re lifting boxes, flexibility and properly warmed-up muscles are important and often overlooked. Having an adequate range of motion around your joints is also essential if you want to avoid injury. Alix recommends these two poses for keeping your body in prime working order while your move is under way.
Malasana Pose (basically a squatting position) can help prepare you for the rigors of lifting while also relieving tension in your back.
To get into Malasana Pose, stand with your feet about shoulder width apart, with your toes facing out at 45-degree angles. As you squat down, be careful not to let your knees go over your toes. Drive your hips straight toward the ground, and put your hands together, palm-to-palm, at your chest. Place your elbows on the insides of your thighs and press out.
Hold this pose for five to eight breaths. Inhale as you stand back up, and exhale as you drop back down. Make sure to keep your weight in your heels so you don’t topple over!
Eagle Pose is another great way to improve strength and flexibility. This pose stretches your shoulders and upper back while strengthening your thighs, hips, ankles, and calves. It’s therapeutic for anyone who has lower back pain or suffers from sciatica, and as if that weren’t awesome enough, it can also help prevent knee injuries.
Start in a standing position with arms at your sides. Bend your knees, put your weight into your right foot, and lift your left foot off the ground. Cross your left thigh over your right and hook the top of your left foot behind your right calf. Hold this for one breath. If hooking your foot is too strenuous, try resting your left toes on the floor.
Now that you’ve got your legs in place, let’s focus on your upper body. Extend your arms straight out and wrap your right arm under your left. Your left tricep should be stacked on top of your right bicep. Keep that position, wrap your arms at the wrists, and press your palms together. Square your hips and chest, holding that gaze steady at your fingertips. Take five deep breaths, then release, and repeat the entire pose on the opposite side.
Be Kind to Your Back
Everyone’s natural tendency is to try to lift with our backs. For lack of a better word, this backfires pretty often. We all do it, but it’s dangerous and can cause long-term damage. Instead, remember to lift with your legs! If you start to experience back pain after hauling all those moving boxes, lie down on your back, and hug your knees to your chest. Make circles with your legs together, hands on your shins, and your legs pressed against your body. This variation on Happy Baby Pose not only helps your back, but it’s also great for loosening up your hips.
Take Time to Unwind
After a hard day’s move, take a few moments to relax your body and mind. Alix recommends Shavasana Pose. Find a quiet space (maybe in your new home!) where you can let go without being interrupted. Lie down flat on your back with your feet apart. Allow your toes to fall open to the sides. Turn your palms to face upward. Try to be as still as you can. Let yourself unwind with deep belly breaths. Stay in this pose as long as you need to, and if you accidentally fall asleep, you won’t be the first!
Yoga Is for More Than Muscle
Moving is hectic and can have a negative impact on our mind and body. To find that sliver of peace and prevent injury, remember to take deep breaths, listen to your body, and lift with your legs. The stress of moving is only temporary, but injuries can be permanent. Use yoga to reduce moving stress, but most importantly, be kind to your body. Whether you're moving long distance or moving locally, don’t let the chaos make you forget to be mindful. Your body will thank you, and your moving buddies probably will, too.