Summer is the busiest season for vacation, and in the coming months lots of us will be away from home. Many modern yogis build their practice around studio classes: we all have our favorite locations, teachers, and times to attend class, and any disruption in our routine can cause our yoga practice to fall by the wayside. But in Sutra 1.14, Patanjali reminds us, “Practice becomes firmly grounded when well-attended to for a long time, without break and in all earnestness.” So how do we keep from neglecting our yoga while traveling?
1. Pack for practice. Don’t let yourself say, “I have nothing to wear!” Pack at least one asana outfit that does double-duty as a comfortable plane or car outfit. Many of the new high-tech fabrics will wash and dry quickly in a hotel sink (bring some gentle detergent), so you don’t have to over-pack.
Also, consider buying a travel mat that is specifically made to be folded to fit in the smallest carry-on. It won’t provide much cushion, but it will protect you from dirty surfaces and give your hands and feet something to grip.
2. Plan ahead. Do some research on the availability of public classes at your destination. Look for local studios to try, and remember that many hotels and spas offer yoga classes to guests.
Another great way to get your practice in while you’re away is by streaming online classes. Save yourself time on your trip by going online before your departure to bookmark a variety of videos to try (different lengths, levels, etc.). That way you won’t spend half of the time you earmarked for practice searching for the perfect class to suit your mood.
3. Take it outside. It can be incredibly nourishing to retreat to a room where you can close the door and find peace and quiet. But consider moving your practice outside where your senses will come alive to all of the sounds, smells, and sensations of your environment. If you feel self-conscious about strangers watching you, remember that you’ll probably never see them again – plus, you just might make them curious enough to try yoga for themselves!
4. Get creative with props. No bolsters, blocks or straps? No problem. Use pillows or stacked blankets to imitate bolsters, books or other sturdy objects as blocks, and a scarf or belt instead of a strap. As for blankets, those are usually plentiful, even if they’re not the colorful ones we’re used to from the studio.
5. Any practice is better than no practice. Avoid falling victim to “all-or-nothing” thinking, and don’t skip your practice just because your schedule doesn’t allow for your customary 90-minute flow. How about a few Sun Salutations in the lull before dinner, or some standing poses when you stop for gas during a road trip? When you seize these pockets of time you might be surprised at how many “mini-practices” you can fit in.
6. Take a vacation from your physical practice. I know: I’ve spent all this time convincing you to stay consistent in your practice, right? Yet at times we can become rigidly attached to the “necessity” of our daily asana practice. When your body needs rest, forcing yourself to push through a rigorous physical practice can lead to burnout, or worse, injury. Sometimes a short break from a routine – even your yoga routine – allows you to recharge your batteries and then return refreshed and recommitted. Release the panic of believing you’re allowing your practice to “lapse”, and ride the waves of energy and recovery that are essential parts of life.
This is easier to do when you remind yourself that yoga is more than just asana. Expand your definition of practice to include meditation, pranayama, restoratives and any rituals that help you summon santosha (contentment) and facilitate svadhyaya (self-study). Here are some simple ideas:
- Put your legs up the wall in Viparita Karani to gain the restorative benefits of this inversion.
- Sit in quiet meditation for 3-5 minutes each morning.
- Practice Sama Vritti (Even Churning Breathing) before bed, making your inhalations and exhalations the same length.
- Create a gratitude practice by naming 3-5 things for which you are grateful.
- Write a few pages in a journal, spending time reflecting rather than just listing the events of the day.
With commitment, planning, and spontaneity, you can take your yoga with you wherever you travel. If you soften and recognize the true meaning of yoga, you may discover that every breath is a dedication to and embodiment of your lifelong practice.
Deepen your yoga practice and indulge your wanderlust this summer at Lainie’s 7-night yoga retreat in Italy! Click here for more details and registration information.
Lainie Devina is a highly-regarded yoga teacher as well as both a lead Teacher Trainer and Mentor in the YogaWorks Professional Program. She is a Business of Yoga Coach and leads workshops and international retreats. Practice with Lainie at YogaWorks and online at MyYogaWorks.com. For more information, visit lainiedevina.com or connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.