Taking your yoga practice with you when traveling can benefit you beyond a simple chance to stretch each morning. My latest long haul trip to the UK was my first as a traveling yogi, and although my actual asana practice was far less frequent and a little rushed when I found the chance to roll out my mat, the principles of yoga still influenced my journey. Not only did I stay limber and sleep better but I found that continuing to make time to stop and spend a moment focusing on my breath allowed me to go with the flow more during the busy times or occasions when things didn’t turn out quite as planned.
Here are some ideas for the traveling yogi, and tips for incorporating meditation, mindfulness and deep breathing into your next travel adventure.
On the flight
Try loading your phone/mp3 player up with a few guided meditations and listen to them during the journey. I’m loving Gabrielle Bernstien’s Spirit Junkie album at the moment. Even without the guided meditations you can spend a few moments sitting still, with your eyes closed, bringing your attention softly to the breath. Remind yourself to release and relax your muscles, and enjoy a few full breaths to recentre yourself. This is particularly great if you’re a bit of a nervous flyer.
As we know, its important to move around and stretch your limbs when travelling by plane. Space is limited, but you can still move your ankles and legs, get up for a stroll and stretch your arms standing near the WC! I like to stretch my calves, quads, hamstrings and reach up for a full body standing stretch every few hours.
Practice in your hotel
First things first – do you take your mat from home or buy a travel mat? This time I travelled with my trusty mat, and although my sister laughed at me (what a geek!) it was really lovely to be able to roll out my proper mat whenever I felt like it, and take that along to classes I tried in London.
Having said that… I think next time I’ll try a travel mat simply so I don’t have to lug my big one around. They do take up a bit of room in your suitcase, and depending where you’re travelling you may prefer to save the weight of the mat for shopping! My luggage came in at exactly the limit on the way home, and I probably could have shopped for longer if I’d know I’d have room (My credit cards are thankful I took my full sized mat!) Lululemon does a travel sized, and I like the look of this Manduka one. This one from Gaiam looks nice and lightweight and a reasonable price too.
The second thing to consider if you’re planning to practice on the move is how to know what to do. One word answer here – youTube! Seriously though, while there are great online subscription services like these two, there are also a whole host of fab videos on youTube. Here are a few excellent vids to get you started…
Of course, you need to remember not to push yourself when practicing alone, and if you don’t understand the instruction simply don’t attempt the pose. Especially if you are a yoga newbie! The most important thing is to try and relax into the practice and enjoy connecting with your breath and moving your body – no one’s judging your dancer’s pose, whether you’re practising alone in a hotel room or in a packed class.
This was the biggest difference for me on this trip – normally the over-planner, stressed-out uber-tourist, I really made an effort this trip to go with the flow more and let go of the epic to do list for each destination. Sure, I didn’t make it up on the London Eye this time, and I didn’t find the perfect new wallet I hoped to buy in London (haha), but I had an amazing time and enjoyed the unexpected moments like stumbling across a divine little French cafe in the backstreets of Paris and having a laugh at a crazy old English pub on the Dorset coast. It’s easy to get caught up with the idea that there are absolute must-sees at each destination (you simply haven’t seen Paris unless you’ve been to Versailles for example) but are these well-worn tourist spots the magic memories that stay with us? Sometimes, but usually its the people we meet, new experiences we have and simple moments of pure fun that happen along the way which make for stories we’ll retell years from now.
Your practice might also remind you to take care of your body while you travel. Have fun, splurge on yummy things, but try to stay healthy when you can – you’ll have much more fun if you’re feeling vibrant and well! Stay hydrated, eat some veg and try to get a decent nights sleep when you can.
Breathe it all out
If there’s one yogic practice I’d recommend for all travellers and all people in general, its to embrace the simple practice of taking a moment each day to fully enjoy a few deep breaths and consciously come back into the present moment. This isn’t really unique to travelling, but its easiest to forget when we’re caught rushing to catch this plane or that bus or we exhaust ourselves shopping up a storm. Go get a cup of tea, or take a little time at your hotel between outings to sit, breathe and ground yourself in the present.
Try something new
Finally, and perhaps the most fun of all of these suggestions – get out and try a yoga class where you’re visiting! Sure this might not be possible in all destinations, but most major cities in the world will have a yoga studio that you can get to for a drop-in class. You can either play it safe and try to find a style you are familiar with, or branch out and give something totally different a try! I did, as discussed in my post on London highlights. Each yoga teacher has their own approach too, so even if you do try a style you know (such as Ashtanga or Iyengar) you may still find a new way to do something, a novel variation of a pose or different approach to something you have struggled with.
If you’re somewhere warm enough, how about getting outside into the fresh air and rolling out your mat under the trees or beside the sea? Who cares who’s watching – you’re miles from home and this is your time away from your routine, to spend as you please.
Above all, taking your yoga practice traveling can enhance your journey – this I’m sure of. Staying grounded, being flexible (physically and mentally!) and taking care of yourself will definitely help you enjoy the fun adventures that come with visiting new places. The same applies when you have to travel for business, perhaps even more so! Whether you take a mat, try a class somewhere or simply practice deep breathing while you fly, hopefully these little yogic tips have helped give you something to think about and incorporate on your next trip away.
If you have any questions or want to add any more suggestions I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!