Let's keep this simple!
Currently living in Quintana Roo, Mexico, I realized that it had been over a year now of consistent self-practice for me without a yoga studio, and that my mat and my practice has traveled through 5 different US states and 9 different countries this year. I wanted to share the benefits behind maintaining my yoga practice while traveling and give some tips on establishing your own!
There are 5 essential benefits. I listed my top benefits below with steps you can take to achieve them.
Breath is easy to forget in the midst of traveling, especially when in airports with new currencies, foreign languages, missed flights and crowded terminals. I remember my flight to Indonesia, right before I was about to get on the plane my passport was stolen in a security line. After notifying the police, I sat down and I meditated amongst the fluorescent lights, crowded lines, passengers and belongings. Below are some steps for how to come back to your breath. I would recommend trying this for 5-10 minutes!
1) Sit. Get comfortable.
2) Close your eyes.
3) Begin to pay attention to your breath and notice the rise and fall of your chest within each inhalation and exhalation.
4) Allow your breath to slow, matching the length of your inhales and exhales. If my mind is busy, I like to count. I will start with a count of 6 inhales, and 6 inhales, and add on with each new breath.
5) If your mind begins to wander, guide your attention back to your breathe.
Benefits: Breath activates your parasympathetic nervous system, decreases cortisol levels, and helps your body and mind relax. Stress can hinder your ability to make logical decisions, which are vital to make while traveling somewhere new or a foreign country, especially alone.
2. Physical Body
Jungle hikes, backpacks, rolling suitcases, Italian cobblestone, tiny canoes or dirt roads? Here is my sister about to get on a four hour boat ride with me to the small island of Tortuguero, Costa Rica. Travel puts a ton of stress on the body! The physical act of getting from one destination to the next creates some serious stress and tension in our muscles, and can lead to injury and physical exhaustion. I like sequencing together these five poses to release muscular tension, specifically in your lower back and spinal column: Cat and Cow, Reclined Child's Pose, Puppy Pose, Downward Dog, Supported Bridge
Benefit: Yoga releases muscular tension in your physical body.
Mexican pan dulce, sweet bread! I ate one of these this morning...I like to eat really healthy, but I also do my best to try all the local foods while traveling, which is really hard on my stomach and digestion, every new culture I travel to. When you're gut is off, your whole day can follow suit. Yoga aids in digestion to regulate your system and decrease bloating! I recommend twisting postures to aid in digestion, and a simple knees to chest on your back for an upset stomach.
Benefit: Yoga allows you to eat your cake and have it too...without indigestion!
Jet lag. Time changes. Dogs barking. Frost and snow. Damp sheets. Crowded rooms. Humid temperatures. Hard floors, surfaces and beds. These are a couple of examples of different sleeping arrangements I have had, just in the past 3 months! Yoga is vital for consistent energy throughout the day, and for getting restful sleep at night! Here are my favorite bedtime restorative poses:
Legs Up the Wall
Reclined Bound Angle
Thread the Needle
Benefit: Yin yoga poses before bed help you fall asleep faster, stay asleep longer and improve the overall quality of rest. This also contributes to an increase in your energy level throughout the day.
5. You can bring your practice anywhere!
Yoga benefits range from help with stress, high-blood pressure, osteoporosis, migraines, insomnia, anxiety, depression, indigestion, infertility, sciatica, asthma, fatigue and back pain, to name a few, but my favorite benefit while traveling is the convenience. Traveling pushed me out of my comfort zone to develop my own self-practice, and create the space rather than demand the environment be a certain way. It allows me to be one step ahead from those who do not take the time to self-care, to function at my highest level, while working, living and breathing in a new environment.
Benefit: Yoga can be done anywhere and keeps you functioning as your best self!
ABOUT ME: Currently learning how to breathe again and again, I am in my third week of living in Northern Mexico. Culture shock never seems to get easier, but techniques and skills for adapting do.
TRAVELING TIP FOR YOGA OFF THE MAT: The next time you find yourself in a challenging place or crossroads, ask yourself this: is there love here? Am I loving here? And then...act accordingly. Go where love is. And once you've found it - stay put. Stop escaping or thinking that you don't deserve it. You do. In any given situation you have a choice. It's as simple as that.