The word says it all. And as anyone who’s ever traveled can tell you, it’s not all sunshine and puppy dogs. Especially when backpacking through developing countries, where it’s more likely to be monsoon rains and feral dogs.
Maintaining a yoga practice when accommodations are tight, the weather is unpredictable or just plain lousy, and there’s only so much space in your pack, can be a huge challenge—but experience has taught me a few valuable lessons, and I’d like to share them with you.
Because travel can be draining to the mind and body, maintaining a yoga practice while on the road is crucial. There are few, if any, more effective methods for staying grounded and keeping your spirits high. However, finding places to practice isn’t always easy. The key is to keep an open mind, improvise, and leave your self-consciousness in a locker at the airport.
Here are a few things I’ve learned through experience that allow me to maintain my yoga practice while backpacking abroad.
Designate a Specific Time When you can Practice Undisturbed. Your fellow backpackers are likely to be late-night types (more than a few may be actual vampires, but that’s another story). As such, if you can wake up early you’re likely to find plenty of quiet places where you can practice undisturbed.
You’ll also find that practicing first thing in the morning also allows you to avoid gawkers, and has the effect of calibrating your mind and body so you can face the rest of the day in the best possible shape.
Seek out Like-Minded Individuals. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain a yoga practice while traveling simply because finding others who share your interests can often be a challenge. But even if there aren’t any fellow yogis at the hostel, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any yoga classes being held nearby.
I’ve learned the value of Googling ahead—doing a few minutes of internet research before I arrive in a new destination so that I know where the yoga classes are if I need them. This way I never feel far from the type of sustaining experiences essential to life on the road.
Travel Light. Because it is by definition a minimalist method of traveling, and the key to successful backpacking is to be as efficient as possible. With that in mind, taking more than one pair of yoga pants seems like overkill because, well, it is. Likewise with bringing a deluxe, roll-up yoga mat along with you on your sojourn abroad. Instead, buy a nice, thin, travel mat that can be tucked away neatly into the bottom of your backpack. They’re cheap, light, and imminently practical.
Be Self-Contained. While the idea of practicing along with online yoga classes on the beach in Hue or Bali seems very 21st century, the fact is the internet in developing countries is often much more late 20th century in nature, with frequent outages and poor or non-existent connections.
I’ve found it’s less frustrating to just be self-contained when it comes to my yoga practice. These days I create a full routine before heading off on my travels and then stick with it, improvising a bit from time to time to keep things interesting, but never compromising on my commitment to my practice.
Reach Out. One of the many great things about traveling is that you get to meet so many new people. As such, it is often the case that somewhere in that crowded hostel is at least one other yogi anxious to hook-up. So don’t be shy. Ask around. You’re sure to find some like-minded individuals who can help you recreate a class-like experience that energizes your workout and enhances your overall experience at the same time.
Be Careful. While that isolated corner of the beach may seem like an idyllic place to practice keep in mind that “isolated” and “foreign country” aren’t always concepts that work well together. Particularly for a young lady traveling on her own. While many other countries are blissfully safe when compared to the West, there are nonetheless unsavory types wherever you go. It’s important that you keep your eyes open and use common sense when selecting a place to workout.
These tips should help you maintain a vital yoga practice while backpacking abroad regardless of where in the world you find yourself.
Author: Monica Lawrence
Image: Marion Michele/Unsplash
Editor: Taia Butler