A keen believer in the meditative powers of yoga, Dina Dillon has been learning and teaching the craft for nearly two decades, working with such celebrity clients as Kyra Sedgwick and Conan O’Brien. She’s also got great tips for traveling moms, whether they’re commuting to work or flying across the country.
Dillon says yoga is for everyone.
“Children as young as 2 can have a blast doing yoga with their parents,” says Dillon. “If you roll out a mat for them, they will mirror everything their parents do. It’s a way to get them calm and quiet. Unless of course it energizes them – it can go either way depending on the exercise.”
Even the daily grind of a commute or a long plane ride can be an opportunity for maternal rejuvenation, she says.
“A 10-minute meditation can be as effective as a 40-minute nap,” says Dillon. “Knowing how to breathe and learning to refocus your energy during a commute can have you stepping off that train or bus refreshed, ready to make the transition from busy career woman to busy mom.”
Traveling Mom Founder Kim Orlando caught up with Dillon recently for some tips on incorporating yoga into a hectic travel schedule.
TMOM: What if you can’t fit a full yoga session into your busy schedule? Are you out of luck?
DINA DILLON: Not at all. There are plenty of ways to incorporate yoga into your daily routine. I’ve been developing a series of tips for people who want to experience yoga when commuting by train or bus – even by plane. Mobile yoga, if you will.
TMOM: What routines would you recommend for moms who fly?
DINA DILLON: First off, breathe deeply. Take a long breath in, hold it for a moment, then slowly release it. Then do some basic stretches in your seat. Sit up tall towards the front of your chair. Lace your fingers together and press your palms toward the sky. You’re going to extend through the arms and release your shoulders down through your back. And you’re going to lift up from your upper back.
TMOM: What if you have your kids with you?
DINA DILLON: Get them to do the exercises with you. Make it a game like follow the leader. Yoga is great for kids, especially during a long flight, because it can occupy them while keeping them calm.
TMOM: Can you do anything with your legs, or is the space on a plane too tight?
DINA DILLON: There are several exercises you can do, even in that small a space. An important tip is to take off your shoes. Your feet will swell during a flight, so being in your socks will vastly improve your comfort. Once you’ve removed your shoes, stretch your legs out toward the chair in front of you and point your toes. Really stretch through the tops of your feet and then flex them, your heel pushing down into the floor. Then flex your feet and bring your toes back. Do this at least 10 times for every two hours you’re flying.
TMOM: What other areas of their bodies should moms focus on when flying?
DINA DILLON: Definitely the lower back. It gets so tight during a flight. Grind your feet down into the floor and squeeze your legs together, sitting up as tall as possible. Again, you want to be sitting at the very edge of your chair. Then pick a nice twist. You can take your right hand into the outside of your left knee and wrap your left arm around the back of your chair. Breathe and release looking all the way past your left shoulder. Do this while taking five or 10 deep breaths. It’s a wonderful release for your lower back after all that sitting.
Also, consider the hips. Women’s hips have a tendency to get tight when they’re sitting on a plane for hours, so a great thing to do is an ankle to knee pose. Take the right ankle and place it over the opposite knee. You should have a perfect triangle when you look straight down into the center of your legs. Gently lean forward over your legs. You’ll get a big stretch in that outer hip, which feels fantastic when you’ve been flying.
TMOM: A lot of traveling moms go right from the plane to a day of high-stress meetings, a business dinner and finally to a hotel where it’s not always easy to sleep. Any suggestions for them?
DINA DILLON: Do some exercises that will help transition you from stress to sleep. Take as many pillows as you can find – five or six if possible – and stack them at the head of the bed. Get the back of your hips on top of the stack and swing your legs up the wall. Bring your feet together and flex them, then stretch your arms back, up, and over your head so you’re eventually holding your elbows. It’s a deeply relaxing pose. It gets all of the stale, poorly oxygenated blood out of your feet and the bottoms of your legs. Ten to 15 minutes of deep breathing in this pose and you’ll be relaxed and ready for sleep.
TMOM: What about moms who have a daily train or bus commute?
DINA DILLON: My best advice for commuter moms is to turn their time on the bus or train into a meditation. None of your fellow commuters will be the wiser. To start, I recommend closing your eyes. It eliminates distraction. But if you’re uncomfortable doing that, just drop your gaze to the tip of your nose. Then sit up as tall as you can, even if you’re tired. Proper body alignment will help with the flow of oxygen, and that’s really important. Breathing is a huge element of meditation.
TMOM: What sort of breathing?
DINA DILLON: Start by taking a few deep breaths. Become aware of where your breath is sitting in your body. Is it up high? Is it low? Does it reach your feet? Breathe deeply until you feel like oxygen is flowing easily through your body. Now allow the breath to soften. Then begin taking in all the sounds that are going on around you.
TMOM: Take them in? Doesn’t meditation require you to tune those noises out?
DINA DILLON: Not exactly. When you’re in a situation with a tremendous amount of noise, you need to absorb that noise and make it part of your interior world. Assign each sound to a part of your body that needs to be relaxed. Doors slam…relax your shoulders. Announcements blare…relax your forehead. What you’re trying to do, in a nutshell, is use what’s around you to help you relax.
TMOM: And once you’re relaxed?
DINA DILLON: Start identifying the thoughts that keep running through your head. Thoughts about work deadlines and childcare issues. Cooking dinner and soccer games. Let them float in and out of your consciousness without attaching a feeling to them. This way, you’ll know when you get off the train that you need to do A, B, and C, but you won’t be coming at these tasks from such a tense and frantic mindset.
TMOM: What about a trip that’s more than a commute? A family road trip, for example.
DINA DILLON: Road trips with the family can be a lot of fun, but they’re hard on the body. Especially if you’re the driver. You’ll feel it in the hips and hamstrings, mostly. My recommendation is this – keep an old crummy towel in the car. When you make a pit stop,
throw the towel down and step onto it in downward facing dog position. Next take a forward bend with your knees slightly bent, feet about hip’s distance apart, allow the hips to release over the legs and stretch the spine. Take ten deep breaths. Then stretch your arms behind your back, interlace your fingers, and stretch your arms slowly up and over your head. Ten more deep breaths. These exercises will massage your back and shoulders and get the blood flowing through your heart and lungs and into your brain. When you’re coming up out of the pose, always release your arms first, keeping your head very heavy, knees slightly bent and then roll up very slowly.
TMOM: Will this take long?
DINA DILLON: Not at all. Five minutes max. You can be totally done by the time everyone else in the car is out of the bathroom. Then grab yourself a piece of fruit and you should be good to go for another few hours.