The Aches and Pains of Travel

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It was 12 hours into my sixteen-hour bus ride from Bangkok to northern Thailand, and while we were passing through breathtakingly green scenery, all I could think about was my nagging back pain and upset stomach. I was in awe, excited, stressed and uncomfortable all at once.

At the time, I blamed the uncomfortably stiff seat I had been in for half a day. But looking back, there were a variety of other factors that probably contributed to my aches: the accumulation of sitting on the airplane in transit to Southeast Asia, the uncomfortable beds I’d slept in on the road so far (including my seat in an overnight bus), my cramped hour-long taxi ride, carrying my heavy backpack – the list goes on.


Some of my study abroad classmates catching some zzz’s on a long bus ride.

The point is – traveling isn’t exactly easy on one’s body. Even if you go into a trip well-tuned and pain-free, chances are something will throw you off along the way. And yeah – my trip was a wild one on a budget for an extended period of time… but even a short flight or drive and a few nights in a not-so-shabby accommodation with not-so-heavy luggage can still cause some major issues in your tissues.

Allow me to explain… For one, traveling usually requires a lot of sitting. As I discussed in my article Integrating YTU Therapy Balls into Your Daily Routine, this position tends to compress the tissues in contact with the sitting surface (compression = reduced circulation) and the fixed angles of flexion in the hips and knees creates unnatural shortening of certain muscles (mainly the hamstrings and hip flexors).

Also, traveling requires us to sleep in unfamiliar conditions. A variety of factors, including the mattress, bedding, pillows, temperature of the room, etc, can all change the way you sleep – whether you’re on your back, belly, or side (or different combinations of those).

The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781

Sleeping arrangements while traveling can be a nightmare! The Nightmare, Henry Fuseli, 1781

And here’s one more – we often walk a lot more when we travel than we do in our daily lives – which is great – but if your body isn’t prepared for that, it can create some discomfort.

So, what’s the solution? Later this week I’ll explain what has worked for me and how you can incorporate a few effective tools and exercises for pain free travel.


Enjoyed this article? Read Air Travel Yoga: 5 Stress Relief Tips for Traveling by Airplane!


Max Bayuk

As a competitive high school athlete, Max developed several chronic over-use injuries that left him on the sidelines for his senior year. His journey of fixing these injuries over the past 6 years has taught him the value in integrating one's movement practice -- be it sports, yoga, or any other kind of exercise -- with body work. He has developed a passion for self-myofascial release and its therapeutic effects, especially in combination with strategic stretching, correct posture, and a balanced lifestyle. Max completed his 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training through YogaWorks while at school at UC Santa Barbara in spring 2013, and is now combining his athletic background with his knowledge of yoga, Yoga Tune Up®, and embodied anatomy.

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Maria del carmen restrepo

I identify 100% with this. I’ll read the second part of this article to make a mental note of what I’ll need for my next trip.

Myriam Goulet

I’ve been carrying my YTU balls in the car and in my luggage for the past trips… really helped me get in deep relaxation while in vacation. Will absolutely continue to do so.


This blog really got me to think about why I seldomly travel. Although I enjoy the experience once I get to my destination I think that deep down, unconsciously I have been reluctant to take long trips due to exactly what is spoken of here…poor sleeping arrangements, cramped quarters and an inability to move while in transition to a new place. Perhaps armed with some new tools I won’t be so reluctant to take on new adventures and go out and see more of the world. Knowing that there are ways to change makes me optimistic that when I do… Read more »


Sitting surfaces= reduced blood flow….. big lightbulb for me!


I work as a flight attendant and while I sit less at work than I do when I fly as a passenger, I still feel the effects constant travel has on my body. What really helps me is carrying a set of Yoga Tune Up® balls with me wherever I go. They are so convenient as they take up little space and I can easily roll on them in the hotel rooms I stay in. Thanks for the great article!


Agree wholeheartedly! I always take my YTU balls whenever I travel and use them in airport lounges and on the aircraft. Makes a world of difference to how you feel arriving.

Carole Giuliani

Soooo true! My husband and I travel quite a bit and I learned never to leave home without my tune up balls! I never thought about sitting affecting circulation but now I will take notice and try to move as much as possible while seated for long periods.

Robert Ouellet

Voyager, long trip in car, buses or plane affect me too. i tried to drive with the ball in my last long trip, but it is not so easy but to refresh my back when i stopped to some rest area was perfect. I keep play with the balls specially for my foot, the right one, the one on the gaz pedal! Merci


A friend of mine keeps a therapy ball in his car. On long trips he will drop the ball between his back and the car seat. I tried it once, is a little distracting as the driver, but certainly for a passenger this would be a great way to reduce the fatigue of long road trips.


I’ve been stopped by TSA more than once for the mysterious balls in my carry-on luggage ? Worth it! They’ve saved me after international flights and have led to some great conversations during long layovers.

Jenni Everard

Spot on! I’ve been living abroad for a couple of years and travelling a fair amount. Travel is amazing and yet created a number of set backs in my training because of problems in my hips and shoulders. I never leave for a trip without my YTU balls. I had a throw down with security in Mumbai when they tried to take them from me, somehow confusing them for a security threat. As I was already 4 hours into a 40 hour journey, I was having none of that. I will have to check out your other tips for body… Read more »


So much to consider when travelling. I’ll definitely be bringing my YTU balls with me on my next travels. Thank you for informative article.


Lots to consider when we travel, not just more walking but also sleeping in different beds, maybe even with mosquitos keeping us company at night.


Going to keep up with this before my next trip. Going to walk golf courses with my husband while he plays, after a long plane ride.


I didn’t realize that the main muscles that are affected by sitting are the hamstrings and hip flexors. The flexion in the hip and knee joints creates an unnatural shortening of the hamstrings and hip flexors; visualizing that really helps me think about different stretches I can do while I’m traveling.

Jill McCubbin-Clare

With travelling, I keep a set of balls in my purse. When I can, I roll my feet and my hands. I get airplane anxiety and I have found squeezing and rolling my palms very effective at bringing down my anxiety.