Solana Beach resident's yoga program helps drivers exercise caution

"Breathe and check in" ---- that's the advice to drivers from Solana Beach resident Elaine Masters, 54. She has produced a book and a CD called "Drivetime Yoga" to help drivers relax and remain focused on the road.

Masters made sure to repeat certain reminders on her CD to drivers, such as to "check in" on the traffic around them and to keep their eyes on the road, because questions about safety, she said, are often the first ones she is confronted with in regard to "Drivetime Yoga."

"I have tested this for years myself, included expert testimony in my book and there are disclaimers everywhere," she said about the question of liability. "Think of how much you're already doing in the car, talking on the phone, eating, smoking, even going on the computer. This is really about doing less, starting with breathing and tuning into our bodies and to the road."

 

Masters said the idea for the relaxation program came from the hours she has spent in a car ---- stopped in traffic and watching others getting progressively more cranky and stiff.

"Four years ago, I was sitting on Lomas Santa Fe, and watching all those people on the freeway was breaking my heart," she said.

Little stretches

Masters has been a yoga enthusiast and instructor for more than 30 years. One day it occurred to her that it would be valuable to bring the yoga techniques of breathing and relaxation, as well as small stretching exercises, to commuters and drivers everywhere. "I started doing little stretches in the car, and by the time I got there, I felt better," she said.

Supporting what she sees as an increased need to calm aggressive driving, Masters cites findings by anger management psychologist Dr. Arnold P. Nerenberg of Whittier.

According to Nerenberg, who popularized the term "road rage," each year more than 20,000 Americans die on the road in close to 2 million episodes of aggressive driving. He says that 83 percent of commercial drivers will be involved in an aggressive driving incident.

Even the Vatican got involved in the topic in June when it issued its "Ten Commandments" of courteous driving, which included "Thou shalt not make rude gestures behind the steering wheel."

All the more reason, said Masters, for her program, which she called "an idea whose time has come."

This year, Masters started her company, The YoGo Project, to produce the CD and book. She pulled together skills she has honed during the years as a graphic designer, yoga instructor and voice-over actress.

One of her first steps was to consult with Julie Garner, a physical therapist and certified associate ergonomist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Garner helped Masters develop the drivetime yoga positions for effectiveness and safety when done seated behind the wheel.

"There is a lot of information in studies that is buried about how people can stay sane and healthy while seated ... in the workplace in front of the computer or seated in a car."

Masters begins her program with deep breathing. "Start by sitting up comfortably," she says on the CD. "Take a brief survey of your body of what hurts, if anything. ... Listen to the hum of the car, the wind blowing through the window, picture yourself arriving there on time and feeling good. Feel your foot on the pedal and sense the vibration of the car. ... Is the weight of your arms even? Blink several times. ... Take one slow, delicious breath into your belly. Stay alert and aware of your driving ..."

Slowly, and always in a soft, soothing voice, Master moves through a series of easy exercises, including a neck release, which she said is easy and safe to perform while driving.

"Keep your eyes on the road; imagine a pencil on your nose, and you are drawing a circle 8 or an infinity symbol, in a small motion," she instructed.

These exercises are followed by shoulder rolls (keeping both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road), wrist rotations, finger releases, and splashes (clenching hands and then releasing each hand in turn). There are also torso slides, chin tilts, Kegel pelvic exercises, back slides, back arches and hip slides ---- all while Masters reminds drivers to breathe and check traffic, admonishing also that some exercises should be done only at a stoplight or the driver's destination.

"This is not going to replace yoga or exercise class," she said. "It is to enhance your life and your exercise program. And it can also make you a better driver, because you will be more aware of what is going on around you while staying relaxed."

North County Times Staff writer, Ruth Marvin Webster

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