Have you ever tried to practice yoga on the road? I have, but rather unsuccessfully. I have the lovely opportunity to travel for roughly a year, but did not want to leave behind my yoga practice. Especially in this second part of my travels, as it culminates with a 200 hour teacher training in Costa Rica. (I figured if I want to do it, I would do it somewhere really cool!) As I traveled through Spain last summer and fall, I took a few classes, did a Bikram intro in Madrid but did not find a way to practice consistently. I seemed to always come up with an excuse. On my current trip to South America I packed my yoga mat – as a visual reminder of my goal for daily practice. I’m at about 80% now, I would say. This is the account of how my first week went:
Day 1 – Practiced in hostel. Okay, what I mean to say is that I almost didn’t.
Excuse number one: There was no good place inside or outside to practice. There is a small lawn in front and the hostel guests gather there and the back lawn is where they were setting up the grill and cooking the asado. There is no space in the common areas, and there are people using those spaces, anyway. Excuse number two: Just when I had decided to use the floor of my own room (between two sets of bunk beds) my roommates all came in for a siesta. Excuse number three (one that works in any public setting in any country, aside from an actual yoga class): I feel like a dork!
But after I went downstairs and web-surfed a bit, I saw the roommates emerge after an hour or so and head off into town. I went back to the room armed with my new My Yoga Online subscription, rolled out my mat and loaded up a 45 minute class. No annoying buffering, and I held Crow Pose for the first time ever! I think I can do this, and now I deserve to pig out at dinner!
Day 2: Had to check out of the hostel by ten and catch a bus at four. Plenty of time to do some yoga. But where? I psyched myself up as I hauled my wheeled duffle and its attendant yoga mat all over town. On the main street of El Calafate there is a grassy area, park-like, between the lanes. Perfect for yoga? Maybe. I can totally envision it. The problem is, the girl doing yoga in my vision isn’t me. The me doing yoga in this very public place with cars and tourists going by at an alarming rate might be getting rotten veggies thrown at her from a passing remise (taxi) or getting hauled off by disgruntled policia. I chickened out.
I walked by a place I’d seen the day before – a collection of shops with a garden and deck behind. I peer around. It appears to be part of a very cute and very dead café. I find some courage and ask the woman at the counter in my substandard Spanish if it would be all right if I did some yoga on her deck. She agrees, I roll out my mat and a cheat sheet of poses and do about half an hour. Only about half a dozen people walk by. She has no clients. Afterwards, I get some lunch and a sandwich to go for my bus dinner, and write up a quick Tripadvisor review for her business. I don’t mention yoga in my review. (I’m not the entertainment, after all!)
Day 3, 4, and 5 – did different classes from My Yoga Online at the hostel in Puerto Madryn. Very nice way to practice, as I can load up videos of different lengths and types based on how I feel that day. All I need is the internet to be functioning properly, and I’m good to go!
Day 6 and 7 – At my new place (through Help Exchange) in Buenos Aires, there is a choice of great outdoor places to do yoga. The lower courtyard is shaded and cooler, but in a shared area with my host. The upper terrace can get brutally hot with no respite from the scorching sun. I choose the lower courtyard, and as a bonus I get a boost from my host’s Siamese cat, Tato, who rolls on his back in yoga-empathy and tries to squeeze under me for a clandestine caress in Thread the Needle.
Day 8 (one of my faves!) – tired of solo yoga, I open up the Couchsurf events page for Buenos Aires and discover a group doing yoga in the park that afternoon! I brave the mid-day heat, sling my mat roll over my shoulder like a quiver of om-arrows, and hope I can find the exact location. Success! I meet half a dozen like-minded souls and we practice together, led by an easy-on-the-eyes instructor and complete with groovy tunes from his I-Pod. I attempt a new arm balance pose (flying crow, I think?) and can’t do it, but am inspired enough to add it to my “gonna try to do this one better” list. Armed with a new attitude, a new view of Buenos Aires, and a handful of new Facebook friends, I leave with a smiley yoga glow.
Day 9 – a well-deserved day off to check out the Chinese New Year festival after a lazy morning. No yoga, but everyone needs a teensy break sometimes, right?
Day 10 – Overcast enough to practice on the rooftop terrace. The Yoga Online videos are loading slow and buffering, so I rely on a series that I have copy-pasted from one of my WordPress peers. Again, Tato Gato watches with silent encouragement. I practice in a bikini and make sure I use sunscreen.
Practicing yoga while traveling can be difficult, but worth the effort. Bringing my mat was a big help.Of course one can practice without a mat, but it is a psychological nudge, if not a physical reminder (who would bring a mat all over South America like a big yoga dork and not ever unfurl it?)
My Yoga Online – you can subscribe (there is a fee) to stream videos and use other resources. I haven’t fully explored this yet, but so far I love it!
My favorite WordPress yoga blog: She has other stuff too, but I love some of her yoga sequences!
Couch Surfing – not only a place to find a place to crash, or to host travelers, but also to connect with others to “go do something”. Boulder has a nice group 😉
Alexa Maxwell is a writer, teacher, traveler and student of yoga. She is a huge fan of elephant journal and is honored to be part of the herd. Watch for more ele posts as she attempts to maintain a steady yoga practice while solo traveling through South America! (YIKES!) You can read more at her blog here, follow her on Twitter, or wait for her upcoming travel memoir which is a work in progress.
Prepared by Aminda Courtwright, Assistant Yoga Editor.