10 Tips for the Travelling Yogi - Maintaining your Practice On-The-Go.
Traveling is a wonderful time to escape the demands of reality and reconnect with your mind, body and soul. Whether its a international adventure or just a local weekend away; our body is able to jump out of its every-day schedule and tune into a more relaxed state. With any holiday, comes a change in routine and environment - often making a impact on our exercise program, eating habits and yoga practice.
I have recently returned from a 3 week vacation in France - where I spent most of my time in the confined space of a house boat. Almost each day was spent in a different town as we traveled down the French canals. I had made the intention to maintain my practice. Here are a few personal tips for yoga on the go!
1. Pack your mat!
The first step to ensuring you maintain your yoga practice is to pack your mat! If you have a travel mat, you are already lucky enough to have a mat which is designed to be lighter and easy to pack in a suitcase. Unfortunately, I do not have a travel mat. Instead, I packed my Jade Harmony Mat (weighing around 2kg), into my luggage. By making the effort to bring your mat with you is the initial step to motivate you to use it!
2. Plan Ahead
If your holiday has a fixed itinerary and you are staying in one area for a longer period of time; do some research into the yoga studios in that area. Trying out a new studio (or in a new language. like I did), is a very exciting experience. Keep an eye out on local community boards and ask around about any outdoor yoga classes or events that might be going on during your stay. My first few days of traveling were spent in Bordeaux, where I found a beautiful studio - which happened to be offering a free first class. Although the vinyasa class was in another language, I was able to follow the instructor through her demonstrations, rhythm of speech as well as observing the other students around me. Don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone!
3. Yoga Online
If you prefer a guided class over a self-practice, plan ahead by preparing online videos which you can follow while you're away. If you know you will have an internet connection, you can just head on over to YouTube at any time and find a class that is suitable for you. YouTube also offers an Offline feature that allows you to pre-download videos on your YouTube app to be watched without internet connection at a later stage. I am a big fan of practicing online videos. Not only is it cost-effective but it also allows you to be reflexible in your schedule, a definite benefit when you're on holiday mode!
4. Set realistic expectations
Although you may have made the intention to maintain your yoga practice, remember that travelling is also a time of exploration and rest! In order to maintain a balance, set realistic expectations for yourself. It is not necessary for you to #yogaeverydamnday and miss out on other amazing opportunities that come with travel. Instead, set an ideal intention - to practice every second day or to move your body is calling for it. Although I practiced less during my holiday than at home, I was also spending a lot more time walking, cycling and exploring. Allow yourself to find that balance that works for you.
5. Modify your practice
Traveling takes a physical toll on your body! The change in routine and environment might make you feel a little uncomfortable or challenged in your regular practice. During my tour de France, I spent a lot of time cycling and walking - as a means of exercise and getting around!. This left me feeling very stiff in my hips and hamstrings. Instead of focusing on intense power practices, I incorporated a few vinyasa's to get my body moving and longer holds to maintain flexibility. On some days, my asana practice was only 20 minutes and I took a longer meditation. It's ok to take a step back in your practice and modify according to your body's needs.
6. Find a Yoga Spot
Finding a space in your holiday environment that can provide that sirene feeling of a yoga studio is a great benefit. It's important that you find an area with enough space that you feel comfortable in, without worrying about your surroundings. This can be challenging, especially in my case where I often resorted to practicing on jetty's and pavements at the ports. If I was concerned about people watching as they walked by, I looked for a quieter spot around a corner which provided more privacy. Another suggestion is to go to a local garden or beach where you can enjoy the beauty of nature at the same time. The yoga spot might not be perfect, but that is part of the beauty of traveling; allowing yourself to step out of comfort and into new experiences.
7. Improvise with props
Although packing a yoga mat is recommended, it is not always an option to bring blocks, straps, a bolster, eye cushions or any other possible yoga prop. If your packing allows for it - sure, take it along! Alternatively, find creative ways to use props that don't need to be carried around everywhere. If you can't even manage to take a yoga mat - use a sarong/ beach towel. Rolled up towels are also great substitutes for blocks and can provide support in certain poses. Replace a strap with a belt or tie to help you into those challenging postures.
8. Be flexible
Be more flexible in your routine. If you are someone who prefers a morning or evening practice, remember that a holiday often does not run according to schedule. Changing up a routine is great for your body and your mind. Adapt to your environment by practicing at a time that is appropriate. I shifted to practicing in the mornings when it was cooler, allowing me more freedom in the afternoon to explore and enjoy an afternoon nap! Forgive yourself if things don't go according to plan and you don't get time to practice, remember to come back to your intention and modify your expectations.
9. Moving meditation
We all know that yoga is more than just the asana, and incorporating meditation into your traveling can make all the difference to your trip! If you're a nervous traveller like me, or just need those moments of peace and calm - make sure to make time for meditation. This does not have to be the traditional seated meditation, but can also include moving meditation or mindfulness activities. Although I managed a few seated meditations overlooking the canal during my holiday, I also included mindful walks in the park. I spent time observing, feeling, smelling, tasting... using all of my senses to absorb all that the surroundings had to offer. These 30 minute sessions brought a sense of ease and relaxation into each day.
10. Practice the Pause
In between your adventures, exploring and maintaining your yoga practice - keep in mind that the goal of any holiday is to rest. Remember to include some down-time; Read a book. Take a nap. Sit and watch the sunset. Take the time to do what your body and soul are asking for - even if that means sleeping in and having a lazy day.
Including these moments of stillness will allow you to return from your holiday feeling completely revitalised and restored!
Do you have any other travelling tips? Share your experiences in the comments below!