Road Rage And Bad Traffic Got You Down? Try This Next Time You’re Behind The Wheel!

by Ellyn Bell

You slam on your breaks and the tires skid. The Lexus comes up quickly behind you and passes on the right, then cuts directly in front of you and moves to the left. The driver is oblivious to you and seems not to understand the use or value of turn signals. Plus he looks 12 years old and shouldn’t be driving! Your heart’s beating fast, you’re gripping the steering wheel, mumbling obscenities, and trying to recover and focus. It feels like time to shake your fist out the window and yell. Better yet, tailgate the dude and make a mean and fed up face… but hey, maybe instead it’s time for some car yoga!

Car yoga is a rarely practiced form of yoga that is available to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you drive a car, a truck or a motorcycle. It doesn’t matter your age, gender, religion, or if you’re in shape. The techniques are simple and easy to use anytime, anywhere, even outside the car in places like the doctor’s office or the DMV.

Six easy steps and you’re on your way! Here’s how to practice:

1. Cleansing and Roaring
Take a deep inhale down into the belly and fill up the lungs, count to 4. Slowly exhale through the mouth making a “haaa” sound, counting to 6. Do this 3 times.  The take a deep breath, counting to 4 and exhale while sticking out the tongue and making a lion’s roar. Make the roar a little dramatic and extended. Do this 3 times. 

2. Making Waves
After the third lion’s breathe, change the breathing pattern to an inhale through the nose slowly and an exhale through the nose slowly, involve the throat as you consciously exhale. You will notice that a sound is made similar to waves on the ocean crashing against the shore. That’s what you’re going for here. Do this at least 6 times, but try to keep this conscious breathing pattern going for the next 5 minutes as you move through the rest of the sequence. In other words, keep making waves.

3. Shifting Gears (but not literally)
Next, while keeping the breathing flowing, begin to notice how you’re sitting. Straighten your spine. On the next exhale, pull up on the pelvic floor and in on the belly button at the same time. Feel the spine lengthening on the exhale. On the inhale feel completely connected and relaxed in the driver’s seat. On the exhale feel the spine getting longer while the connection to the seat gets stronger. You are shifting energy, and metaphorically shifting mental gears. Do this at least 4 times.

4. Shrugging 
Keep with the breathing pattern and begin rotating the shoulders to the front 6 times and then rotate them to the back 6 times. Next, shrug the shoulders up by the ears on the inhale and then drop them down gently on the exhale for 3 times.

5. Swinging
Start making gentle rotations with the hips. Make at least 6 rotations in each direction. This might make you laugh, and that would be an added benefit. Then swing the hips side to side while remaining connected to your seat. Keep the movement going with the breathing pattern; such as swing to the left on the inhale and on the exhale swing them to the right  6 times, then switch for 6 more.

6. Smiling 
After all of this, it’s time to smile. Keep the jaw relaxed and just smile real big. Your tongue can lightly touch the roof of your mouth and this will help to further relax the jaw. See how long you can smile and breathe slowly. For some reason, it’s really difficult to be stressed, mad, or anxious when you’re smiling. I’m not sure why, but it’s a great reason to smile. Plus I hear it’s better for your face and keeps a youthful complexion.

All of these poses can be repeated as many times as necessary during a road trip or a traffic jam. Sorry, no savasana though until out of the car!

If you’re in the doctor’s office or the DMV, you can add head and neck movements and rotation of the ankles to the shrugging and swinging. These movements are not safe while driving, and should only be practiced in stationery settings. For obvious reasons, it’s also advisable to leave the roaring part out when in public settings.

It may only be a humorous thought, but imagine, the roadways full of smiling drivers, breathing deeply and taking their time. And if we took simple yoga techniques to our everyday life and all the places we find ourselves impatient…. Well, who knows, we might start something that could catch on. 

Ellyn Bell teaches yoga at Ocean Yoga in Pacifica. She is co-author of Singing with the Sirens. Visit her at or take one of her classes.


heidi kolsky