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.
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.
- 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?