For some, getting exercise while on vacation is little more than an afterthought. Sure, you’d rather not get back home and realize that you can’t fit into anything other than your sun hat, but all of the walking, swimming, and sightseeing should help prevent that. So, in the meantime, why worry?
Others, however, have allowed working out, and specifically their yoga practice, to become such an important part of their lives, that to skip a week or even a day would put them in a funk. When I spend too much time away from my mat, for example, I feel physically weaker, I have less energy, and I’ll eventually withdraw from others knowing I’m in desperate need of time to recharge. Sounds like a party, right?
Getting your yoga fix while traveling is no easy feat. Depending on many factors, such as your schedule, travel companions, and destination, finding the time and opportunity to practice may require more flexibility and determination than that handstand variation you’ve been attempting for years.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- If you know you’ll be practicing regularly, bring your own mat, or at the very least, a yoga towel. There are few things more disconcerting than practicing on a funky, thin, worn, or (heaven forbid) still sweaty mat you had to borrow for $5 – especially when you’re already in unfamiliar territory. Make one of your old yoga mats a carry-on and save yourself the trauma. Mats fit easily into overhead compartments, they’re great conversation starters, and they’ll be useful whether you’re visiting a studio, practicing in-between the double beds at your hotel room, or in need a place to sit at the beach. Plus, you can always stuff your mat bag with things like extra socks and earplugs. Finally, if you do bring a mat with you on your travels, watch where you leave it. I once had to run after a group of boy scouts who mistakenly stole my yoga mat thinking it was one of their sleeping pads…
- Thankfully, yoga is an international practice, but it can be tricky to find a studio depending on where you’re visiting. To increase the likelihood that you’ll get a chance to meet the accented instructor you’ll brag about when you get home, try these tips:
- Research your destination’s yoga options before you leave the comfort of your home wifi connection (Google and Yelp are most helpful here). Print out a map or the area surrounding the studios you hope to visit in case you’ll be walking, driving, or using public transportation to get there.
- If you’ve ignored the above step, or if you’re already at your destination while reading this, you’re not out of luck. If you have internet access the same advice applies, although the research process will probably require a bit more skill in the case that you don’t speak the local language. If not, visit a local athletics store (e.g. lululemon is a great one for this) and ask staff for studio recommendations. This works especially well if you look like you might buy something…
- Be open to trying different types of yoga, whether that’s Kundalini, Sivananda, Iyengar, etc. Part of the joy of traveling is in trying new things so let that spirit give you the willingness to get out of your yoga comfort-zone and learn something new. In the same sense, be prepared for the fact that different studios often practice the same style of yoga differently than you do back home.
- Double-check the schedule. Traveling to a new studio only to find it closed in observation of some holiday you never heard of is pretty annoying, and believe me, it happens more than you’d think. Don’t rely on a posted schedule you found on a flyer someplace. Check the studio’s website, facebook page, or call to confirm when and exactly where the class you’re interested in will be held.
- You may not be able to find an accessible yoga studio or a class that works for your schedule, so be prepared for the possibility of practicing solo. It’s a different sort of practice that forces you to listen to your breath, really tune into your body, and make adjustments based on how you feel rather than how you think you might look or how those around you look. It’s something every yogi should try and to make the journey easier when traveling:
- Pack a sequence or two. You can easily find full yoga flows online that you can print and easily refer back to once you’re on your mat. Alternatively, books available in stores and in most yoga studios (my pick’s Ashtanga Yoga: The Practice Manual, by David Swenson) are great resources. You’ll not only learn new sequences, but you’ll come away with a better idea of proper alignment and suitable modifications for your practice level.
- Find space. Whether you prefer practicing in your hotel gym, a secluded area by the beach, or a rooftop, take your time to scope out a practice zone that is truly comfortable to you. If you don’t want random passerby’s commenting on your yoga pants or if you get distracted by a lot of noise, make sure those conditions aren’t present at the place you finally lay down your mat. Make a playlist, put up a barrier, do whatever it is you need to do to feel like you can breathe freely and practice unselfconsciously.
The more you make yoga a normal part of your travel routine, the more you’ll enjoy the excitement of visiting new studios, striking up conversations with your fellow practitioners, and embracing the feeling that you’re truly part of an international community. Happy travels!
About the Author: Melissa Lynn is a writer, yogi, and coffee fanatic from Southern California. A former Division I athlete, Melissa earned her BA in History at Stanford University, worked as a paralegal in Washington, DC, and happily traded pencil skirts for spandex to become a full-time yoga instructor. She is an avid traveler and you can learn about her experiences abroad on her personal blog and website at TheTravelingAmericano.com