October 2, 2014

Yoga & Travel: The Perfect Combination. ~ Jennifer Ellinghaus

Jennifer Ellinghaus

Heartbroken and setting off on a round the world trip, I needed my yoga practice more than ever.

But are yoga and travel really a marriage made in Kaivalya (kind of a yoga heaven)? Yes, it turns out they are. So if you want to take your practice with you, here are my top five yoga travel tips from Yoga for Travellers:

1. Take a travel yoga mat.

This might seem obvious, but it’s really important. Roll out your mat and suddenly you have your own yoga studio, a defined space for your practice. Even if the shape and size of the area isn’t ideal, having your mat there creates a sense of space for yoga and makes your daily practice more likely.

Rather than one of those crazy garbage-bag thickness travel mats, I suggest you take a small, lightweight travel mat—an actual mat. These generally weigh only around 0.6kg (1lb 4oz) so by packing one less t-shirt you won’t notice the weight.

We have all heard it said that starting something is the hardest part—this is so true of yoga practice. But once you roll out your mat, the rest will surely follow.

2. Find your yoga “studio” as soon as you enter your room.

The first thing I do when I walk into new accommodations is identify my yoga “studio.” I once joked that yoga teachers should double as hotel critics, as we see the room from all sorts of angles and will know, for example, whether under the bed has been swept!

I think it’s important to make this a priority when you first move into a room, as it will make you far more likely to do your daily practice. The beauty of yoga is that we do not need much space in order to practise. And the shape and amount of space available to us can guide our practice and encourage creativity and flexibility—qualities that we wish to develop through doing yoga. For each type of space that I have come across, as well as conditions such as intense heat and cold and mood on a given day, I have put together a suggested sequence in Yoga for Travellers.

Jennifer Ellinghaus

I found a lovely space to practise next to Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda

3. Less can be more.

Travelling is a great opportunity to see and do lots of things. But it’s easy to get caught up in busy activity, forgetting to take time out to do as little as possible—to “push the boundaries of laziness” as a friend of mine says.

Be careful not to get wrapped up in the idea of seeing and doing everything, of going for experience and sensory overload. Looking back, the trips that I have enjoyed the most are those in which I haven’t bothered to see all the sites and do everything—when I have slept in, missed sunrises, sat by the pool all day while others went sight-seeing, and stayed on an extra few nights.

The same applies to travelling with yoga in mind. Take a gentler approach, not trying too hard, not caring too much, pausing and taking a breath. These are practices that I take from yoga and apply to the way that I travel, that I bring from travel into the way I practise yoga, and that I introduce into my life from both experiences.

4. Embrace the down days.

Don’t be surprised if some days on the road, perhaps for no apparent reason, you find yourself feeling a bit, or even very, miserable. This is completely normal. Remember that we all have low days, whether at home or on the road.

Concerns or issues may arise, either in our thoughts or our dreams. But fear not! This is one of the great benefits of travel—having the time and space to work through our stuff in a neutral environment—to consider issues objectively rather than trying to make decisions during our hectic everyday life.

Don’t worry if the answers to our questions don’t arise while we are travelling. Travelling is a time for reflection rather than decision-making. It brings about subtle shifts that allow us to make changes when we get home, just as subtle shifts in our yoga practice on our mat can lead to profound changes in our life.

And what can we do when we experience the inevitable down days?

Easy—use the valuable resource available to us that we can take anywhere—yoga! Yoga for Travellers includes advice and suggested sequences for those days when you’re feeling low or anxious, or need some help changing your mindset.

Yoga in the Airport, illustration by Jon Lander

Yoga in the Airport, illustration by Jon Lander

5. No excuses!

We will have every excuse in the world not to practice yoga when we’re travelling—early mornings and late nights, limited space, varying energy levels, busy schedules and tours, long train/bus/plane journeys—you get the idea.

But practising yoga regularly is a discipline, and the days that we want to do it the least are probably the days when we need it the most. So when in doubt, one way or another, get on your mat. Whether you judge your practice as fabulous and focused or as willfully going through the motions, don’t underestimate the benefit of simply paying attention to your breath for a period of time.

Even if your mind is distracted, and you only have 15 minutes, your mood will lift. And rather than detract from your holiday activities, yoga will add to your experience, much as in day-to-day life, complementing your travels by providing valuable opportunities for reflection and learning about yourself, other people and the world.



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Apprentice Editor: Karissa Kneeland/Editor: Travis May

Photos: Courtesy of the author

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