It’s a common misconception that traveling gets in the way of your regular routines. Whilst it’s true that late night flights, long-haul train journeys and sharing dorm rooms with noisy neighbors can wreak havoc with your body clock, it is by no means impossible to keep up your feel-good habits while on the road.
Yoga is arguably one of the easiest practices to maintain whilst traveling; not only do you need very little space or equipment, but by providing valuable opportunities to pause and reflect, it complements the curriculum of life lessons that travel teaches us. From asana to ahimsa, meditation to mantras, yoga offers us practices for even the most chaotic and tumultuous of times.
Got a big trip coming up? Already on the road? Here is a straightforward guide to remaining grounded no matter what your travels throw at you.
No, I don’t mean like a contortionist’s impression of a pretzel. The first — and in many cases, only — rule of traveling is to be adaptable and willing to compromise. Regardless of whether you wing it or meticulously plan every detail, even the most knowledgeable of nomads will stumble across a situation in which they have to embrace a change of plan. The same goes for yoga on the road. Be ready to adapt your practice and flow with the constant change going on around you. The most common cause of letting habits slip is an all-or-nothing attitude. If you usually only ever hop on the mat with a full hour to spare, take your travels as an opportunity to see how much you can achieve in just 10 or 20 minutes.
(For example, this could be Your Go-To Yoga Sequence for Days You Only Have 10 Minutes or Less.)
One of the biggest challenges travel appears to present to a yoga practice is lack of space and equipment, though this is quite simply a matter of perspective. No matter what slick studios and shiny adverts will have you believe, you do not need anything but your own body, breath and mind in order to practice yoga. Sure, props and a peaceful ambience are supportive vehicles for driving us along the path, but they are not the cargo, nor the compass. Though a travel mat or grippy gloves can come in handy, there are always plenty of standing and seated postures you can practice without them. As for props, it’s often possible to improvise using what’s around you: books make great blocks, folded pillows are extra comfy bolsters and a sarong or scarf is strong enough to double-up as a strap.
When it comes to asana on the road, you may need to get a little creative. If there is no space to practice in your room, create your own studio! Seek out a rooftop, balcony, laundry room, common area, corridor, park or beach, allowing the shape and amount of space available to guide your practice. As long as you are respectful to your surroundings and dressed accordingly, anyone passing by is likely to be curious rather than judgmental. Regardless, try to let go of hypothetical notions of what others may think of you, and treat practicing in public as a lesson in staying present and free from distraction.
(More on this preconception notion in Find Beauty in the Broken by Living This Zen Buddhist Precept.)
Remember the Other Limbs
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that yoga is so much more than bending into shapes for an hour here and there. Once you allow it in, yoga is a complete way of life. The ancient Yoga Sutras outline eight limbs of yoga, encompassing all aspects of existence from self-discipline and social conduct to spirituality. Contemplative time spent on trains, planes and buses during your travels could be the perfect moment to brush up on yoga’s fascinating history and philosophical background, perhaps even guiding you toward a more meaningful trip. What’s more, having limited space for asana might nudge you towards merging more meditation and pranayama into your practice than usual, enabling you to delve deeper into the yogic toolbox.
Continue to Attend Classes
Wherever you are these days, you won’t be far from a yoga class. If tasting the local cuisine makes it to the top of your travel itinerary, getting a taste of the local yoga can be a priority, too! Traveling is a great opportunity to try out new teachers and new styles of yoga you would never normally consider whilst caught up in the routines of everyday life. Don’t be scared away if the class is in another language — give it a go! If you stay light-hearted and playful, you may surprise yourself with what you can learn. Stepping outside of your comfort zone is a big part of being adaptable and will undoubtedly feed back into your life both on and off the mat. You never know, your most inspirational teacher might just be right around the corner.
The Ultimate Travel Companion
No matter how much fun you are having, traveling can be chaos. Bags to pack, planes to catch, skipped meals and sleepless nights. When we lose our roots, we can gradually begin to feel like we are losing ourselves. Yoga allows you the time and space to reconnect, helping you to feel grounded no matter how far you are from home. It is the ultimate travel companion, gently and continually reminding you to live in the now, to embrace change and stay present. When life is up in the air, just remember that yoga really can be practiced anywhere, at any time, in any space. All you need is your body, mind and breath.
(Continue reading in Yoga for Your Travels.)