9 Tips For Traveling Like a Yogi

mexico asta vakrasana

Ashtavakrasana (Eight Bends Pose) on driftwood in Cancun

Travel can be very disruptive to a yoga practice, however with a little flexibility it can also serve to deepen and expand yoga horizons. Letting go of the idea that yoga has to be on a mat in your home or a studio opens up the whole world as a practice space. This of course makes sense since practicing asana (yoga postures) is only a small part of living a yogic lifestyle. Because so many yogis take the summer months to get away from home I thought I might pull together a few yoga travel tips to help you optimize the fun factor of every moment of your summer get-away.

Partner Yoga Warrior Poses on Woody Island.

Partner Yoga Warrior Poses on Woody Island.

Tip 1: Packing
At first the idea of packing to accommodate a yoga practice can seem daunting however there are some compact options. Travel mats that are thinner and fold easily into suitcases are an option, as are toe socks and grip gloves that you can wear to practice on any surface without slipping. And conveniently, yoga clothing is travel clothing at it’s best. Nothing would be more comfy on a long flight or car trip than your favourite yoga pants, so wear them to go. Plus who says you even need a mat. Yoga on the grass is delicious (And a grassy field is a soft landing pad if you are practicing inversions).

Tip 2: Circulation
Fitting some yoga asana into the journey itself will not only help you enjoy the trip more but can help you avoid health problems associated with sitting for long periods, like deep vein thrombosis. The limited space associated with airplane travel can be challenging, but if you choose an aisle seat or an emergency exit more options open up. In your seat you can keep the blood flowing by doing neck rolls, eagle pose arms, shoulder stretches, camel pose (by lifting your arms over your head as you open your chest), cow pose arms (opposite arms clasped behind back), seated cat/cow spinal movements and gentle seated twists. If you get an aisle seat you can also take a regular walk up the aisle and maybe pause in an emergency exit area, or near a wash-room space, to do a standing forward bend (you can add a spinal twist to this by lifting one arm to the sky) and maybe even a lunge or two. If you are in between flights at an airport there are lots of wide open spaces to do a full range of movements. If you are lucky you might find a space tucked around a quiet corner. Not that you need to hide away. People expect to see pretty much anything in an airport and it is a great conversation starter. I have unrolled my yoga mat in airports world wide (yoga mats are great for stretching out and taking a short between-flight nap as well). Road trips of course make yoga breaks easy and fun. Simply keeping an eye out for cool spots to stop and snap yogi pics can be a super fun travel activity for the yoga geek in you.

Tree Pose in a Canola Field in Saskatchewan

Tree Pose in a Canola Field in Saskatchewan

Tip 3: Plan to Breathe
The often sedentary aspect of travel can be an opportunity for breath awareness, meditation and sense of community. If you are travelling on your own, stepping on a plane is a little like a mini version of the ancient yogic tradition of the Sanyasini, where a monk leaves his home, family and all that he owns to devote himself to his practice. For a few hours we are completely dissociated from everything we know. We don’t know how smooth the flight will be, or who will be sitting beside us. We are no longer at our starting point and not yet at our destination. Thich Nhat Hanh writes that this is a wonderful time to practice being in the moment by linking your breath to such phrases as “I have arrived, I am home. In the here, in the now.” rather than focusing on your destination throughout the flight. Use this time to practice your pranayama and your mindfulness meditation. After all what else is there to do? And how about doing alternate nostril breathing or Ujjai breath during turbulence, lost luggage, delays or any other travel related stress to calm and balance the nervous system.

Breath awareness can also bring you more in touch with your surroundings once you have arrived. Any time you become aware that you are in the midst of a wonderful travel moment, you can commit yourself to pause and breathe for 5 long slow breathes and genuinely take it in.

Tree Pose at chichen itza

Tree Pose at chichen itza

Tip 4: Make a Travel Journal
You can do this for any type of travel. Road trips provide lots of flexibility to fit in yogic moments. These can include stopping to get out and do an asana, breathing or meditation at any inspirational place you pass. The key is to tell yourself that this is part of the plan. Look for places to stop. Take pictures of your yogic moments to make a scrap book/journal memento of your yogic escapades. Journaling is a well studied stress management tool. It has been found to have a positive overall impact on health and to improve cognitive functioning. It gives you time to unwind, process and fully explore your experience, and it can be lots of fun as well.

Tip 5: Food
Food habits can be seriously disrupted with travel. It helps to leave with something packed that is healthy so that you don’t succumb to the heavily processed snacks that get handed out on flights, or to the temptation to stop for fast food because you are too hungry to wait until a healthy option is available. Nuts, dried fruit, sandwiches, muffins, apples, and boiled eggs are all easy to prepare and to eat on the move. If possible, look for fun places to stop and picnic that are off the beaten track.

Half Moon Bind in Nasik, India

Half Moon Bind in Nasik, India

Tip 6: Salute the Sun
If you do not already have a home practice, suddenly being away from your studio practice can leave you a little adrift. One solution is to adapt the sun salutation to your time availability and mood. Do it slowly for a calming, meditative effect, or add repetitions and do one breath per pose to get your heart pumping. Finish with a side bend to either side and a lying twist. If you are still learning this series print off a copy of a basic version before you leave.

Tip 7: Utilize Technology
Technology has dramatically expanded options for yoga on the go. You can download yoga apps for iPhone, many of which are electronic versions of yoga flash cards, and some also include narration and sequencing. Meditation apps are also available. The yoga journal website is a good source for sequences and free downloads. For a more authentic class experience you can also try one of the growing number of sites, free or for a small monthly free, that posts live classes that you can follow along with in your living room or on the go. The internet can also be used to check out the yoga at your destination.

The other obvious option is to not use technology at all. You can make your travel time an opportunity to explore your practice and listen to your instincts. Following the sound of the wind, the bird song, the ocean, or whatever is your moment is not just an opportunity for mindfulness, these are also the moments that will remain with you long after you make it back home.

Yogi fun at sunset

Yogi fun at sunset

Tip 8: Take in Some Local Yoga
On arrival check out some local yoga classes or plan to do some yoga on your own where you can soak up your surroundings. This allows you to meet new people and to get your bearings as well. If you are not up to leaving your hotel room/tent/camper/cabin immediately after arrival try your legs against the wall to boost circulation and re-balance.

Tip 9: Yoga Before You go

All the yoga you are doing now is keeping your joints, limbs and mind supple so that you will be better able to handle cramped conditions and stressful moments that sometimes go along with the excitement of travel. Taking your yoga with you will also ensure that you are more energetic and open to all the wonderful travel experiences that happen along the way.

Happy Yogi Travels!

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