At a young age I was captivated by the exotic allure of traveling. I would spend countless hours at the local library going through the pages of travel guides and books, committing the details and images of faraway lands to memory. It was as though the desire to experience new places pulsated throughout my body, and at the tail end of each adventure I would begin the process of dreaming up the next place to explore.
As I embarked on my first yoga teacher training at the age of 19, I was surprised to find that many of the lessons that were beginning to unfold on my mat were ones that I had encountered years before through my travels. Now, with 11 years of teaching yoga and 13 years of practice under my belt, these life lessons have been further reinforced as traveling has provided countless opportunities to live my yoga.
Below, four ways in which traveling helps you live your yoga.
These two words are often spoken during the practice of yoga, and when it comes to the act of traveling, letting go is essential to the experience. So much of the process of traveling is completely out of your control—whether it be delayed or canceled flights, lost luggage, or being required to strip much of your clothing and shoes off in order to get through security. So, rather than holding on tighter to the reigns of control, causing your muscles to tense and your mind to be filled with negative thoughts and emotions, just let go and make the best out of any given situation you may find yourself in.
Ahimsa, often translated as non-violence or do no harm, is the first of the five yamas, or ethical standards, described in Patanjali’s eight-fold path of yoga. Ahimsa refers not only to your actions, but also to your words and thoughts. The act of traveling offers many opportunities to become angry, frustrated, or impatient with others—whether in the form of those in front of you slowing down the line at the check-in kiosk, or the person next to you taking up both arm rests, leaving you with no room to rest your own. It may even occur when the person in the row ahead of you takes the last package of those delicious Biscoff cookies (if you happen to be flying Delta). Use these moments as opportunities to practice ahimsa, displaying kindness towards each person you encounter, not only in your actions, but also in your words and thoughts.
When traveling to a new location it is easy to be consumed by all that you want to experience while there. You may, in fact, become so overwhelmed by fitting all that you can in during your stay that you forget to be present in the moment. Rather than planning out each and every day to the minute, give yourself the opportunity to experience things as they come, with a few of the major things on your bucket list scheduled here and there. And in those times that you feel yourself becoming consumed by your thoughts and expectations, envision yourself on your mat, returning to your breath, as you use each inhale and exhale to ground you in the present moment.
As a yoga practitioner it’s easy to only practice the poses you love or take classes from teachers you are familiar with. However, growth occurs when you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Traveling requires you to abandon your comfort zone altogether because every moment is brand new. Even if you have traveled to the destination before and you stay in the same accommodations, it is unlikely your experience will be exactly the same. Allow yourself to be open to these new experiences, and take note of what you learn about yourself throughout the process. This deeper self-awareness may even have you practicing those poses you avoid, or motivate you to seek out a new studio or teacher once you return home.