One of the biggest challenges to maintaining a consistent yoga practice is traveling. Ironically, when we travel is perhaps the time when we most need to do some yoga. There’s very little in life that is as disruptive as being uprooted from the comforts of our home and our community, getting on a cramped airplane, flying off to some distant city, and spending several days or weeks in a hotel room or on a friend’s couch.
There are, realistically speaking, just three options for a yogi on the road: (1) find a local yoga studio, (2) do some yoga on your own, (3) don’t do any yoga at all for the duration of your trip. Now, although option (3) is clearly the worst, it’s probably the option that most yogis, including myself, most often choose. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s often impossible to find a (decent) yoga studio in some cities. And even if there are some good studios, doing the leg-work of actually finding out about one is something that we often overlook in the course of our travel planning. We could, of course, just do some yoga on our own, but as difficult as it is to do a self-practice at home, doing it on the road involves potentially many other complications. For instance, we often don’t have a yoga mat with us when we’re on the road. And even if we do, sometimes there’s just no space to do any serious yoga in our tiny hotel or motel rooms. Also, it’s often intimidating to just start doing Sun Salutations in the middle of the hotel’s gym or in the middle of your friend’s living room. There are, of course, a million other excuses/reasons for not doing yoga while on the road. But with a little planning and motivation, I’d like to think that a short business trip or a holiday vacation can be a time to expand one’s practice, instead of a time to put it on hold.
I’ll be traveling out of town next week, and I’m already thinking about ways to make sure that I get some yoga in during my trip. First, I plan to bring a mat with me. My Manduka is a bit bulky, so I’m thinking about investing in a travel mat that will fit more easily into a suitcase. Also, I’m going to try to be content with just doing a 45-minute or so practice each day, instead of my usual hour and a half. Setting my expectations low, I think, will make it more likely that I’ll actually get on the mat. Most importantly, I will try to remind myself that traveling is tough on the body and on the mind, but that the comforts of home are really always just a few Sun Salutations away. As one of my teachers said to me a few months ago when I left Los Angeles, “anytime you want to come home, just step on the mat.” I think her advice is very applicable here. By “home”, I take it that she was not referring to a literal house or city, but that neutral, clear, alert, strong, balanced, controlled, and serene state of the mind and body that the asana practice returns us to each time we do it.
In the end, traveling is just another one of the endless distractions, disruptions, and stressors that confront us in the course of our lives. But if we can keep up our yoga practice up in the face of other challenges, then there’s seems to be no good reason that we can’t meet the challenge of traveling. Of course, sometimes when we’re on the road it really just is impossible to do any yoga. But, barring totally prohibitive circumstances, I think it is important to find the time and means to step on the mat and “come home”, even when we’re hundreds or thousands of miles away from our actual homes.