Yoga and Travel — Part 1: Taking Yoga on the Road.
According to Shri K. Pattabhi Jois and his Yoga Mala, the space where you do your asanas (poses) should be open and clean.
In the West, we are used to shalas being spacious, with a lot of room in between us and our next-mat neighbors. The studios are clean, have a good temperature, and are quiet. Most of us even expect a Yoga space to be this way.
However, Yoga is about being able to quiet the mind to ground and stay focused, and we practice these things to be able to apply them in our everyday life.
Sticking to a regular practice while traveling is, of course, challenging in many ways, but I believe I will grow even more by facing those kinds of challenges. Being a traveling yogi lets me experience a variety of (Yoga) spaces and non-spaces to embrace my practice.
In general, it is difficult to adhere to routines when you are on the road, but the only way to keep moving, traveling and doing what I love (which is ultimately the same thing), is to roll out my mat — or keep it rolled up as a meditation pillow — and connect.
I just need one short moment to tune in with my breath, my body and Mother Earth and the Divine Love every day to function properly.
As inspiration for you, me, and for us together, to keep rolling out our mats wherever we are, I share with you some of the places where I have been doing my asanas and meditation practice for the last few months.
In some of them, I had to take a few extra breaths to focus on myself instead of outside distractions, whilst in others, magic happens. I believe we need both sides of the coin to really learn how to apply them to life outside the mat.
Hostel floor next to yesterday’s beer cans. Hostels are always a challenge for Yoga practice since it is never silent, and filled with curious spectators. I can’t ignore my practice nor skip it just one day, since hostels are a somewhat frequent living arrangement of mine.
What I do is accommodating to my accommodation. Having said that, nowadays I do have some requirements that need to be met before spending a few nights somewhere.
One: I always stay in privates, and only on rare occasions do I stay in dorms.
Two: There has to be space for my mat somewhere indoors or on the patio. I am fortunate to live and travel in a country (Costa Rica) where Yoga is like breakfast for most people and, thus, a wide range of hostels in the more remote areas have some kind of Yoga space.
In the city, or in my other home country Sweden, that is not always the case. This particular party-hostel is a place where I show up as I pass through town, and their privates have a perfect mat-sized patio, which I am profoundly grateful for.
In the jungle with friendly animals. Practicing in the jungle is amazing in so many ways — the crisp colors of Mother Earth, the fresh air, the humid heat, the curious hummingbirds and playful toucans, and the meditative sounds of the forest.
However, every now and again, mosquitoes, ants (the small, red, biting kind), spiders and all other kinds of bugs like to join me on the hardwood porch.
And sometimes cats or dogs. That is fine though, I like that kind of company. It keeps me humble to my practice and all life. The vibrations of my moving meditation spread to all living creatures, and of course the cats, frogs, mosquitoes and ants want to do Yoga too! Let’s share the connection.
Together with 22 awesome women, every morning for 22 days, on a semi-broken wooden floor. This was a challenge to me first and foremost, since I am used to spend my mornings alone. Normally, I let my body tell me where to go and what asana to do next, as well as what mantra to chant or what pranayama feels suitable for the day.
Suddenly, I had to share my morning practice with others and be guided through most meditations. It was not about wanting to be in my own space, because I already am.
It was about following someone’s lead and directions while being on my path, creating my life by letting my body decide where to take the asana-flow and letting myself fly away through Ajna Chakra, dimensions and times. Instead of letting it all (me!) flow, I was controlled. And how I needed that control.
On the beach, when water is sweeping away the sand under me. Balance and alignment are two foundations for asana practice. Obviously both are getting rocked when practicing on the beach, just where ocean and land make love.
Again, learning how to stay rooted, balanced and hold a straight spine (head high) with every wave, in every storm, or dust that life throws at you comes from practice within. This situation and place express symbols, similes and metaphors in so many magical ways.
I am always thankful for your teachings, Mother Nature!
Friend’s dusty floor while the radio news is blasting in the tiny room at 6 am. Deep breaths, and a strong Drishti to go within and connect, are what help me stay grounded and calm around fiery energies and hotheaded people.
In the morning, when you are extra sensitive to everything around you, just waking from a deep meditation, the energy you choose to absorb, will set the intention for the outcome of your day. I can never ever choose to wake to such aggressive vibrations as the news.
However, I respect the choice of others, and instead put my headphones in my ears and let Deva Premal bless my day as I wake the body on the purple mat. In other words, yet a place to grow if added to my practice every now and again: chili is also medicine.
I guess it all comes down to one thing really: learn to lie on the floor everywhere. And every yogi I know loves being on the floor, so it actually doesn’t take long, no matter where we are before our feet are in Viparita Karani (up the wall).
Thanks to learning how to stay present in myself on the mat, no matter where the mat is, I stay present and calm elsewhere. Today is a perfect example of such: I ran a little late to the train, and had beyond heaps to carry (five bags). Walking. Alone.
Instead of stressing myself up, I took deep breaths and visualized arriving just in time, which I did.
When I got on the train, the speakers gave information about an accident causing traffic problems. For me, that meant getting off the train after two stops, finding a bus, traveling about 60 km, and then getting on a different train, all the while carrying all of my heavy bags, instead of the planned resting time a train ride should provide.
But, time is an illusion anyway, I said to myself. I’d rather get to where I’m going, and learn something on the way, rather than not getting there at all. I kept breathing deeply, smiling to strangers, and got a chance to see the blossoming youth of Swedish summer on my way.
When the final train driver told us there was no staff due to traffic jam, some of the doors weren’t working, and something was broken, forcing us to go at a slower speed, I just smiled since I was already writing this and on my way.
What are some challenging or distracting places and situations you have faced with your practice? And what did you learn from it?