Friday, June 7, 2013

Tips for the traveling yogini (re-post)

[Originally posted on December 2nd 2009... slightly updated since then to reflect bits and pieces that I've learned along the way! By the way, this mainly applies to long-distance travel where you can't simply throw everything into your car, and every added pound of luggage matters!]

My luggage - all of it! - on my recent 3.5 week trip to Congo. I loved how light the travel yoga mat was - but I wish I'd put it in a mat bag, because it got pretty dirty along the way!

More and more of us are traveling in this day and age, for work or for pleasure, or both. And like everything else in our world, travel today is faster than ever before. 100 years ago, it took weeks or months to travel from, say, Europe to America. Now it takes only a few hours. And as anyone who has experienced jet-lag knows, this puts a heavy strain on our body and our metabolism. Our sleeping and eating habits are disrupted, and our bodies can be confused by sudden changes in climate.

With all this going on, maintaining a regular practice while on-the-go can be very challenging: strange cities, foreign languages, jet-lag, busy schedules, cramped hotel rooms and smelly old hotel carpets are only a few of the limitations! All this assuming that you are able to practice on your own, away from your favourite classes and teachers.

If you are planning an upcoming trip, here are a few simple questions and answers that might help you prepare to take your practice on the road!

Before you go

How many yoga outfits should I bring?

Ok, if you are like me, packing is a serious exercise in making tough choices. But from my experience: Pack yoga-light. Unless you're going on a yoga retreat, realistically you'll only need one set of clothes (gasp!) for your holiday practice. However, with how stylish yoga clothes are getting, if you are going to be doing a lot of sightseeing or hiking you might be able to create other outfits with your yoga gear, too. And don't forget to think about the climate where you are going - if it's different to where you came from, you may want to pack a yoga outfit that you can layer up or down. 

Should I bring my yoga mat?

Ok, the hard answer to this question is: probably not. A yoga mat is a real pain to lug around when you are on the move, and unless you are a SERIOUSLY committed yogi or yogini who maintains your daily practice even if it means missing the bus to go see the Acropolis, you probably won't use it enough to justify carrying it around.

However, if you do have a home practice, I do recommend investing in a travel yoga mat! One that I have used is the YogiToes skidless "yoga-towel", which to me is a great compromise. It's not perfect on hard floors, but laid out on a hotel carpet it's fairly grippy and a lot easier to pack. Plus, easy to wash!

Recently I did a 4-week trip with the Lululemon Travel Mat, which was also pretty good. Again, it doesn't give you any support on hard surfaces, but weighing less than 1kg it was pretty great given that I was traveling on small planes where the maximum weight limit is carefully monitored.  I liked that it feels like a regular yoga mat and is just as grippy. It weighs about the same as the yoga towel, but it's not as easy to pack or to wash.

How will I practice?

If you don't have a regular home practice, it will be worth spending time to write down a sequence you can practice while you're away. Use your favourite book or DVD, or ask your teacher to help you - I would advise aiming for a 45min-1hour sequence. If you do have a regular home practice, see the next section.

While you're there

How much will I practice?
You can practice yoga every day, but your holidays may only come around once in a while, and you want to make the most of that time!! So be prepared to modify your practice and accept that you probably will not practice as much as you do at home. A rough guideline based on my experience when traveling as a tourist is half as often, and half to 3/4 of the usual length of practice.

What kind of practice should I do?

Travel can be stressful to your body, and we all carry that stress in different places. Be prepared to listen to your body's needs and modify your practice accordingly. If you are carrying heavy bags, you may want to focus on poses that loosen up your back, neck and shoulders. If you are doing a lot of walking, you might want to go easy on the standing poses and practice a sequence of restorative forward bends and some inversions to give your feet a rest. Feel uprooted from the air travel? Try solid, grounding standing poses that open up your hips and, hopefully, your mind.

How will I squeeze my regular asana practice in?

When it comes to asana on holiday - practice non-attachment! Yoga is much more than just doing your asanas. Engage in the Yoga of action as you see new places and meet new people. Allow yourself to be open to the other types of transformation that a voyage opens up in us.

All the new sensations, sights, smells and tastes you encounter when you travel to a new place can be overwhelming! Try to make time in your busy schedule for meditation or a restorative practice, or keep a journal of your trip. Whatever works for you, give yourself some you-time to process all your new experiences.

When you get home

Sometimes it can be hard to get back into your regular routine. My advice: start straight away (or as soon as your jet-lag permits)!
Sometimes, returning from a trip is also an ideal time to start a new routine, maybe something you've been meaning to do or let slip along the way. Again, the best time to start is as soon as you get back, before you get swept up again in your old routine.


Those are a few things that I've gleaned from my travels - as always I would love to hear your experiences, comments and feedback! Have you done 

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