Having spent the past two years on the move, I know how difficult it can be to incorporate daily yoga into the nomadic world of crowded hostels, late nights out, and unexpected flight delays. Travelling has the power to give so much, but it doesn’t always lend itself conducive to the development of a yoga routine; requiring a great deal of energy to muster up the space, time, and inspiration to practice.
However, it’s within this stimulating, wanderlust lifestyle that I feel I need yoga the most. And, just as most people would admit they experience a sense of well-being in returning home after a long day at work, I feel at ease the moment I roll out my mat. It’s the practice that grounds me within a world of constant motion – yoga brings me back to myself.
This isn’t to say that there is time within each and every day for an hour-long asana practice to leave me both sweaty and happy. Nor will I ever be a dedicated enough yogi to set early alarms or refuse invitations for memorable nights out in an effort to get onto my mat. However, in acknowledging that I do, in fact, feel better when I practice. I’ve discovered ways to incorporate yoga into a travel lifestyle. This is how I bring my yoga on the road with me…
- Develop an inspiration for coming to the mat. For me, it’s all about getting quiet amidst a world of sensory overstimulation. The sights, colours, tastes, and smells that accompany new cultures in far off lands will never cease to amaze, but can also make for a weary traveller. Yoga is the gift of presence. It allows me the space and time to refill my cup of goodness so I can go back into the madness and give everything that spills over.
- Don’t be shy! I can’t even count the number of occasions in which I’ve been sitting stagnant at an airport for far too many hours, eyes blurry from staring at my phone screen, and all I want to do is move my stiff body! I would never dare break out a warrior or forward fold in public. However, in the spirit of listening to my needs first, I recently started doing just that! I began transporting my yoga mat as carry-on luggage and transformed my waiting time into practice time. And the truth is, I never once felt embarrassed or judged. In fact, more often than not, fellow travellers will approach and join in. The same goes for parks, hostel common rooms, and bus terminals. In taking your yoga practice out in public, you just never know who you’ll inspire.
- Expand your definition of yoga. By far, the easiest way to develop or continue a daily yoga routine while travelling is to reevaluate your definition of yoga itself. Yoga is more than just the stretching of the body, touching your toes and standing on your head. Of course, poses or asanas will make your body physically stronger, but what about yoga to strengthen your mind? Meet long haul flights with guided meditation sessions, practice pranayama to help fall asleep, find joy within the service of helping others, and develop a gratitude practice by waking up each morning and making a list of things for which you have to be grateful for. Don’t box yourself into a 6’ x 2’ rubber floor space; yoga is a practice both on and off the mat.
- Release any and all expectations. If travel has taught me anything, it’s that spontaneity is the spice of life. In leaving behind an existence of schedules, keeping busy, and too many commitments, I have very little desire to set unrealistic goals in my care-free days abroad (especially in regards to something I love as much as yoga). When I allow myself flexibility and space, I often find that I’m called to my mat more and more out of pure intuition and feeling, rather than because I feel I have to. I’ve learned to listen to the needs of my body and release any guilt associated with taking day or week-long breaks from yoga.
- Retreat yourself. Merge a deep-seeded inspiration to travel with a love for yoga by enrolling yourself on a yoga holiday. Not only will you surround yourself with like-minded people, but after months of cold-showers and bunk beds, you’ll appreciate the beauty in indulging yourself for a few days! In a world of innumerable wonders, short pauses can help us to reflect and then return to life on the road with new eyes and extra colours. A retreat can be a gentle reminder to cultivate gratitude for an ability to explore and experience so much.
With a little bit of dedication, planning, and spontaneity, it is possible to take yoga with you wherever you travel. A strong practice on the mat will leave you physically healthy, but it’s the mindfulness and presence of yoga that will benefit you throughout your journey.
Natasha Kochan is a small-town Canadian girl with a deep-seeded sense of adventure. She is a 500hr certified yoga instructor, out-going world traveller, and co-founder of Whole & Happy Retreat; a transformative retreat program that offers eco-conscious yoga and wellness holidays all around the globe. Natasha aims to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness, balance, and gratitude through her yoga teachings abroad and online travel blog.
The next Whole & Happy Retreat dates: Sept 6-10 and 13-17 in Aljezur, Portugal!
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