5 Tips for Yoga While Traveling
Today we’re answering a very important question that I get asked frequently from people all over the world. How do you maintain your yoga practice while traveling? Whether you are taking a road trip or journeying across the world, here are my five top tips for staying on your mat and staying committed to your physical, mental and spiritual health.
Tip 1: Have mat, will practice.
The first tip might seem a little obvious, but we are going to address it anyway because you’d be shocked at how many people don’t do it. Your new mantra needs to be, “Have mat will travel.” Again, this might seem obvious, but purchase a small, lightweight yoga mat which is foldable, and leave it in your carry-on bag all the time. Why? Well, for one, this takes the guesswork out of finding a mat when you arrive at your destination, or finding out the hard way that the local studio doesn’t offer rentals. This also takes away the issue of not having studio at all. Your hotel room, camp ground, or in-laws’ house becomes your yoga space.
If you leave it in your carry on you don’t even need to remember to pack it! It’s there and it’s available to use anytime.
This is also valuable during air travel when you find yourself bored during a long layover or unplanned delays. You no longer have to suffer from airport induced suffering! You just take your mat out, put it down, have a productive practice for your body and mind, and (spoiler alert) you’ll probably be in a much better mood after that! Airports alone are vital reason to have your mat with you at all times.
This tip alone helps keep up the enjoyment factor of our yoga practice because we know that no matter where we are we can stop, drop and practice; we’re going to be comfortable enough to get it done. We’re going to have our own safe space that travels with us.
Even if you travel locally, make this a habit. Maybe you have a beach house or friends at theirs frequently? Leave your mat in your car, or vacation home. Maybe even leave a mat at the local studio in the town you travel to. This way you won’t have to worry about the logistics of getting your practice done. You’ll know you’re set up and ready. I often leave a spare yoga outfit in my car, just in case, This way when the window opens and you have a chance, you can do your spiritual work.
This also kills the excuse of not having a good studio or teacher nearby, because let’s face it, if you live in a city, yes, you probably have plenty of yoga studios to choose from, but if you’re traveling to a remote destination you might not. This way it doesn’t matter anymore. You just put your mat down in your hotel room or wherever you are and get right on it.
Tip 2: Dress in layers!
You can’t assume that just because you’re going to a warm destination that the temperature of your practice space is going to be warm. I travel to Miami frequently, and most hotels in Miami are freezing. So bring a long sleeved shirt along, even if you’re going someplace warm. If you’re going someplace cold, bring some tank tops too, because the heat might be cranked in the space and you don’t want to feel overheated. Just be prepared for any scenario, especially the scenario of not being in control of the thermostat! It happens and it is NOT a good reason to skip practice.
Be prepared to practice in unexpected spaces, like the airport terminal or the hotel spa area. Have sufficient clothing options. Choose lightweight layers and items that you can wear out and about so you can get multiple uses out of them. Have them in your bag just in case, and you’ll be prepared no matter what. There’s nothing worse than going to a tropical destination, expecting a sweaty practice, and then being freezing the whole time, or vice versa. Be prepared for any scenario no matter what Mother Nature has in mind, or whatever your hotel manager has in mind as well.
Tip 3: Do some reconnaissance before arrival!
If you’re staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask if they have any rooms with a nice, flat flooring, such as a conference room, or a spa area, and ask if you can book that space for an hour or two in advance. This way you know you’ll be able to practice and not be disturbed. This is especially useful if you’re traveling with family or sharing a hotel room with other people. Even if your roommate is quiet and unassuming, give yourself a chance to have that steady, focused space for yourself.
When I was traveling in Paris last year, my husband and I had a beautiful and really small hotel room in a fantastic neighborhood (our location was more important to us than the room size), so there was no place to practice there together. Our hotel did have a very small private pool only for hotel guests. The pool was more like the size of a hot tub and the space was toasty warm. So we booked the space each morning, took our mats downstairs, did our practice, jumped in the pool for a quick swim, and done! It was so nice knowing that we had that quiet space. We weren’t bumping into the little drawers of the dresser or looking under the bed. It made practice on the road so much easier.
If like to go to a studio while traveling, call your hotel in advance and ask the concierge to do some research for you. Especially if you’re shelling out money for a really nice hotel, take advantage of this service. Don’t be shy about it. Give them the name of the style of yoga you practice, whether it’s Ashtanga or something else. Maybe ask them to research a few well-known teachers in the area who have a solid following. That’s a good start if you are unfamiliar with the yoga community in a new destination. Let the concierge do some research for you!
That said, recon work doesn’t have to be fancy! Even if you’re camping, you can still do your practice. You might want to ask people who’ve been to the destination you are traveling to about how they managed, or even use Google to see if there are any outdoor areas nearby, like a basketball court or tennis court with a flat surface. These spaces will likely be available early in the morning, which is a great time to get your practice in, and you don’t likely don’t have to pay money to use them. They’re available to the public. Any little bits of preparedness to take the guesswork out upon your arrival are going to make getting your practice in much easier for you.
Tip 4: The early bird gets the peace of mind.
This tip is crucial. Do your practice as your first activity of the day. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be early in the morning, like it might be when you’re at home. Again, when I was in Paris last year my husband and I loved taking long walks by the Seine after dinner at night, as we love experiencing the local culture after sunset. So even though I wasn’t up at 5am like usual, I still did my practice before we started having our daily adventures. Getting it done right away made us more available to enjoy our cultural experiences after that, because we weren’t worried about when we should eat or if we should just have a smoothie first. We knew that practice was done, we felt good, and we were able to focus on the rest of the day after that.
If you’re traveling to visit family, this is a vital point, because when we’re around a lot of people who really love us and want our time, especially if we don’t get to see them very often, we can forget having alone time once the day starts. This used to bother me, but now I count my blessings that I have so many people who love me so much, they want to be with me from sunrise until bedtime! Because so much of our day is already accounted for, practice can really become a stressful item on our to-do list if left until later. So do it first thing. Sometimes that means getting up before everyone else. Other times that means being a little flexible and not comparing your normal practice time at home to your vacation practice time. Don’t stress about it, just do it, get it done and you’ll feel great before your day starts.
Tip 5: Check your mindset!
I can’t emphasize this enough: have a gentle mindset while traveling, especially if you’re going on a long trip, which involves lots of planes, trains and automobiles. Don’t get hung up on feeling super strong and bendy. You might feel great, you might feel tired, you might stiff, you might feel flexible. You can’t always control the outcome. Just make a point to get on your mat anyway. Get on your mat even if you feel terrible and exhausted. Don’t get attached to the result being perfect. Don’t compare it to your practice at home because you’re not at home. Maybe you’ve eaten different things. Maybe you’ve been awake for a much longer period of time than usual. Just do your practice anyway and be gentle with your mindset.
It’s worth noting that when you travel to India to study at the KPJAYI (the Ashtanga Yoga Institute) you do the most basic practice (primary series) for the first week you’re there. This allows your nervous system to adjust. This allows you to get over your jet lag. It doesn’t matter how advanced your practice is normally. Everybody abides by this rule. So keep that in mind, especially during your first few days in a new place, when your nervous system and digestive system might have to adjust. Just do your best and have a gentle mindset.
I know many people do better when traveling if they have a resource they can use, like an audio guide or an online class. That’s the reason why I’ve created an audio bundle of classes for sale on my website to help you, so that when you’re traveling you can take me with you wherever you go. Just push the button, you’ll have a great class at your fingertips, and you never have to worry where to go or what to do to get your practice in in a really consistent, strong and joyful way. If you’re interested in that resource just go to sarayoga.com. It’s right on the homepage if you scroll down, and do what you need to do to set yourself up for success no matter where you’re practicing today. Namaste.