How yoga has made me a better traveler

January 18, 2011 in Life,Philosophy

I’m not flexible at all. I have a really hard time “turning off” the voices in my head. I don’t think a workout counts unless you’re dripping with sweat by the end of it.

IMG_2168

I’m the most unlikely yogi, but yoga has become a steady fixture in my life–even when I’m on the road. Even if I can’t find space or time to practice, there’s no doubt that yoga has made me a better traveler.

    • Breathing. Yoga emphasizes steady, deep breathing in and out through the nose. Doing a simple breathing count, like counting to four while inhaling, holding for seven and exhaling for eight helps to calm me down in stressful moments. When I’m confronted with a situation that’s out of my control, like an enormous traffic jam or being snowed in, yoga breathing helps me calm down and accept the situation. Doing a breathing count (with ear plugs in and eye mask on) also helps me fall asleep soundly, whether I’m in a noisy hostel or a four-star hotel.
    • Being able to sit still for long periods of time. Travel often involves a heck of a lot of sitting still: long plane flights or waiting out a train delay with a pile of luggage spring to mind. I tend to fidget, but sometimes I’ll pretend that I’m in the middle of an asana: sit up straight, suck in my stomach, push back my shoulders, close my eyes and focus just on my breathing. It’s amazing how fast it can calm me down–and how quickly time passes!
    • Stretching out. After a long day of exploring a new city on foot, my body often aches. Resting in downward dog can work out my calves and pigeon pose opens up my hips and chest.  A good stretch can also work wonders after being squeezed in the middle seat of an airplane.

IMG_2313

  • Being able to exercise and center myself, no matter where I am in the world. I’ve done sun salutations on the beach during sunrise in Maui and strengthening poses in hotel rooms. While yoga doesn’t make you sweat, it’s still great for toning muscles and strengthening your core without needing any equipment other than your body weight.  If I don’t have a gym membership, you can bet I’m doing lots of yoga (and Pilates) to keep my body and mind in shape.
  • Live every day in love and kindness. My favorite yoga instructor always ended her class with this. It’s a gentle reminder to be good to ourselves, our family, our neighbors and every person we meet. When I’m traveling, it’s a phrase that often pops into my head and urges me to smile, be patient and say thank you more than it’s needed.
  • Namaste. There are myriad defintions for this common ending to a yoga class, but my favorite is “the light in me honors the light in you.” It’s easy to search for the minute differences between us and them, locals and foreigners, travelers and tourists.  But in the end, we’re all humans with something beautiful to offer.

Do you practice yoga? If so, how do you think it helps you in your everyday life? If not, why haven’t you tried it?

  • That’s great advice, and so admirable that you continue your yoga abroad. I took a yoga class once, ages ago, but it just didn’t “stick” with me. I get a little yoga in sometimes with my Wii, but that’s about the extent of it these days. My main form of exercise is swimming (I’m on a masters team) – sadly not as transportable afar as yoga.

  • Anonymous

    Just in terms of being able to relax my mind (even though I can’t fully shut it off, like you!), has been tremendously helpful. And I totally agree about downward dog and child’s pose being crucial for loosening up after a long journey.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never got into yoga, but it’s always appealed to me. I always mean to sign up for a class but am somewhat intimidated by not knowing any of the poses – and I’m not flexible at all!

    I really like the ideology behind it – and your last two points are great reasons why. I love how you incorporated it into a travel focused post.

  • Oooh, I’ve tried. But holding one pose for longer than 10 secs was getting on my nerve. They’re never comfortable and very tiring to hold. However, I do love child pose and can hold it for a very long time 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I used to do yoga 2-3 times a week but have fallen out of the habit. Your post has inspired me to try to get back into it.
    I get fidgety on long flights too and think that having the ability to relax, breathe and sit still while there is so much going on around us is very important!

  • I used to really practice it, but then got into weights. I need to get back, I’ve lost all of my awesome flexibility. ~namaste~

  • Anonymous

    I definitely didn’t fall in love with yoga with my first class. I was on and off all through high school (I even got a B in my yoga class in high school–although I blame it more on skipping classes than my ability!)–but really discovered a sunrise yoga class that helped me destress during college. Most of my roommates thought I was crazy for doing yoga at 6 a.m., but it really helped me stay “calm, grounded and stressfree”–the mantra I adopted to keep me going. I’d definitely recommend you giving it another try, especially since there are so many types of yoga out there! (Although I will say that swimming is a great, calming workout if you love it–I just hate getting my face wet!)

  • Anonymous

    Too often, I use my morning yoga classes to set up my to-do list for the day. However, when I use what I’ve learned in yoga class in other parts of my life–trying to fall asleep or relaxing during a traffic jam–that’s when I’ve found it really helps. And child’s pose is BEST after a long day!

  • Anonymous

    It’s really not that intimidating! I swear, I’m not that flexible–but yoga is a great way to improve! If you’re looking for a workout, Bikram is great–and you only have to learn 26 poses. I really like Bikram because you can follow your improvement in the poses–although I do enjoy the variety of other yoga classes.
    Even if basic yoga won’t always make you sweat, it really is a mind-body experience. You feel much more relaxed and ready to take on the day after a class. It’s pretty flash! Definitely recommend taking a class–let me know how you like it!

  • Anonymous

    Child pose is one of my favorites for relaxation. And I do much better about holding poses for a long time in a class–on my own, I’m much more inclined to cut it short, especially once it starts to get difficult!

  • Anonymous

    That’s great! I love it when people try or get back into yoga–it has so many benefits! Yoga breathing is honestly the only way I get through long flights, traffic jams and train delays 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I love doing weights, too, but I feel like yoga provides a completely different outlet than just making my body stronger–it improves my mind as well! Do you ever do Pilates? That’s an amazing way to kick your body into shape!

  • I’ve tried… even a couple of times! But it just simply doesn’t fit me. I’m the type of girl that would rather do kick boxing or tennis! I need anything on which I can, er, get rid of a bad day.

  • I really need to try to do more yoga. I recently tried four Bikram classes and discovered it’s not for me. Went to a few generic yoga classes when I was younger, but found them boring. I really should try again now that I’m older and busier and need something to de-stress! I do have a Kundalini yoga DVD that I like, but it’s really different from any other type of yoga I’ve done–not the typical poses. I love hearing how it’s helped you with traveling. I would have never made that connection. You’re right—definitely makes it easier to work out while abroad!

  • Wow. You had a yoga class in high school? And I thought Berkeley High had such the array of courses – Afro-Haitian dance, lacrosse, badminton, handball, women’s field hockey, and more … but no yoga! Which is strange, being that it was Berkeley.

    This isn’t it, but there was an article in a recent USMS magazine that discussed the zen of swimming and how the focus and deep, rhythmic breathing for various sets requires or achieves something akin to meditation. So perhaps what I do is a sort of water yoga?

    http://www.usmsswimmer.com/200511/zenofswim.pdf

    And I see your 6 a.m. and raise you half an hour to 5:30 a.m. Though I get up at 4:30 a.m. to stretch, do my sit-ups, leg-lifts, and sometimes weights as well … before scarfing down a little yogurt and water and heading to the pool.

    This is a lot what it’s like (not my team, but another one in the area) –

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/object/article?f=/g/a/2010/07/13/swimmingvideo.DTL&o=0

  • Anonymous

    Whatever works! I love kickboxing and tennis as well (I was the tennis team captain in high school!), but I’ve had a few knee surgeries and both activities seem to aggravate past injuries. Such a bummer since they’re so much fun! Either way, I like to balance my yoga with some more sweat-inducing activities, like cardio and weight training.

  • Anonymous

    I really think there’s a yoga for everyone–there’s such a variety! I loved Bikram, and I’m hoping to find a good studio in Australia to get back into it. It’s such a different experience from traditional yoga.
    I thought the traditional yoga was SO boring in high school, but now I love it–it’s the perfect excuse to just let go of everything for an hour! Plus, I find my body needs it more, especially when it’s hunched over a computer all day. Give it another go!

  • Anonymous

    I still hold that 6 a.m. is pretty darn early in college–especially living in a sorority house where no one goes to bed before midnight! And yes, we had yoga classes in high school, actually taught by the football coach. We also had cardio kickboxing, weight training, etc.
    I can totally see the “water yoga” connection. Love it!

  • Oh, you’re right. That is an early start to a college day. And while living in sorority house … I can’t even imagine.

    Sounds like you had some great high school classes. And a pretty kickass football coach, to boot!

  • Laura

    Haha, I was tweeting about yoga on Monday… about how much I hated it and was being forced to go. I find the mental challenge to be tougher than anything. I’d rather run, swim, lift weights…. but I think I’m finally realizing how that mental challenge is probably good for me 🙂 I also hate to meditate… and that I have not come around to at all!

  • Joya

    Such a great perspective Christine! I have been thinking about taking up a yoga just so that I can give myself some time to breathe, slow down and stretch out the chaos of the day and this post makes me want to take it up even more.

  • I love the definition you’ve chosen for Namaste, very good travel mantra!

    I’ve only taken a few yoga classes and it’s actually something I’m looking into right now, but unfortunately right now it’s a money issue. Once I learn the poses though I can practice them anywhere, so that’s my motivation!

  • Just started getting into yoga, so we will see how I feel my body change from it- I’d be more than happy to get any of those travel benefits from it!

  • I don’t know yet how yoga has affected my travel, but it’s definitely affected my day to day life. 🙂 Namaste.

  • Anonymous

    I definitely have not conquered the mental challenge! It’s still the toughest part for me. However, I find it really tough to work stretching into my workout–once I do my cardio, weights, etc., I’m usually ready to go home. So yoga is one hour that I put aside to treat my body right!

  • Anonymous

    That was definitely its intention 🙂 One of my yoga teachers always congratulates us at the end of class for taking time for ourselves and for doing something good for ourselves. I thought it was corny at first, but now it makes me feel really good about stepping out of the chaos and creating a calm space for my mind and body. Even if it’s only an hour a few days a week, it’s still great for me!

  • Anonymous

    Check out yogajournal.com. They offer some great sequences and poses that will help you with whatever you’re looking for: relaxation, deep stretches, specific medical ailments. Super helpful! I’ve found that just doing a few sun salutations every morning (pretty basic) are great to keep my body in alignment, strengthen my arms and core, and give my mind a break.

  • Anonymous

    Keep with it! If you’re doing sun salutations, you’ll definitely start seeing your arms and core tone up–that’s my favorite part 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I think how you are in your day-to-day life ultimately affects who you are as a traveler 🙂

  • In college, Yoga was a required class for me and I’ve loved it ever since. There is nothing in the world like a good, long pigeon pose. It keeps me in shape and makes me feel strong and powerful on days when I feel otherwise. Yoga is something that’s definitely helped me with my depression too.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, a required class? What was your major? That’s really interesting. I hate pigeon, but I know it’s only because I don’t do it enough–it’s so painful right now! You’re inspiring me to go do a nice long pigeon pose tonight 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I should have been doing yoga before La Tomatina! I would have calmed down a great deal. I love doing pilates and yoga as exercise for my feet are terrible, eliminating running,etc. You do get this sense of self by doing yoga and pilates I don’t think you get from other exercises. I should do it more when I travel so thanks for the reminder!

  • Yoga seems like the perfect exercise for travelers, since we usually don’t have access to gyms or equipment. I’ve dabbled in the past with yoga, but your post makes me want to try it again!

  • Anonymous

    The Yoga Journal website has some great tips for workouts on the road–I want to put some together so that I can become more regular in my practice while traveling.

  • Pingback: Staying in shape while traveling l Keeping healthy and fit on the road — Solo Female Travel Blog C'est Christine()

  • Getting to this post late but don’t forget yoga podcasts that are free from Itunes! Totally great (Dave Farmar is a personal favorite of mine–he’s very funny and definitely challenging) and portable on your Ipod! 🙂 I’ve been doing yoga off and on since ’09 and absolutely love it. Great workout, calms my mind, and makes me feel more focused and more myself! Way less stressful (for me) than running.

  • Anonymous

    I’ll have to check those out! I don’t have any podcasts at the moment, but I can definitely see where they’d be helpful. Thanks for the tip!

  • Pingback: The challenge: do something alone | C'est Christine()

  • Amy

    Yoga definitely helps me calm down which can be an important thing in traveling.

  • Anonymous

    Agreed! I think it’s one of the most important benefits!

  • We’re kindred spirits! I inherited a love of yoga from my granny. I’ve been known to do the odd asana in airport lounges, and I don’t care if people stare at me – they’re probably jealous and wish they could stretch too! Beach sun salutations are the best, and I’ve done them on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and in Darwin, Northern Territory of Australia. It helps me feel centered and connected to myself and where I am.

    I love pigeon pose, but I’m not big on bikram – it’s just too hot! I like Power Yoga, which is heated but not boiling. It definitely makes you sweat though.

  • Anonymous

    You definitely have to be in the right mood for Bikram, but when I am, I absolutely LOVE it! it’s totally different from the traditional yoga experience, but I love being able to tell how much progress I’ve made–nice to use the same 26 poses for this purpose! I always do yoga on long layovers…totally worth it, even if you do get some strange stares.

  • wow.thanks for sharing this post.

  • Anonymous

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • An enlightening post, thank you !

  • Anonymous

    Namaste!

  • Fantastic article.  Yoga ought to be a part of every traveler’s activities.  Did you know that beach yoga is actually pretty popular in central america? http://www.redpalmvillas.com/costa-rica-yoga-packages.html

  • What a great motivating post for keeping up with yoga on the road. I do yoga here in Korea and it is a great way to learn some of the language! I have to disagree with one point – I sure as hell sweat doing yoga sometimes!

  • Anonymous

    Totally agree with it being a great way to learn the language–although I have yet to try that theory out! And yoga can definitely be a strenuous workout–but I only seem to be pouring in sweat after Bikram 🙂

  • Pingback: Stretch in Indonesia l Yoga classes in Seminyak, Gili Trawangan & Ubud | C'est Christine()

Previous post:

Next post: