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August 11, 2016

By Melanie Carter

When we travel some of the first things to go are our daily routines, our eating habits and of course our yoga practice. We become so wrapped up in the excitement of adventure and the experiences we are trying to create; from the early morning excursions to the late night local scene, that we often forget or don’t make the time to let it all sink in.  

We become overwhelmed and disoriented when plans go awry and planes are missed. Frustration turns to anger, and we fail to see the potential lessons that are right in front of us, if we would have only taken a moment to breath and reassess the situation.

Bringing your mat on your trip, making time to sit, listen and connect to your breath and inner thoughts will allow you to go beyond your edge; the place where you can begin to see your true self, where fear and judgement don’t exist, and balance is restored to your mind, body and soul.

Traveling allows you the space to learn more about yourself and the world around you, while yoga gives you the awareness to choose what to take and what to leave behind that no longer serves your highest good.

To be able to get the most out of your trip and really see the value in taking your practice with you, here are 5 reasons to bring your mat on the road:

Stress Relief

Traveling is one of the many things people do for fun, excitement and the joy found in experiencing new things.  I can’t think of anything I would rather be doing then swimming in a cenote or exploring the depths of the Grand Canon. Traveling encourages us to see the world from different points of view and grow as individuals.

However,  traveling can also lead to very stressful situations. From a personal experience; I have arrived late into a country where I didn’t speak the local language, was unable to find accommodation that would take an American Express, (worst credit card to travel with) so I ended up sleeping on the beach with one eye open, while having no money to eat until I could find a bank the next day that would accept credit cards. The event left me feeling mentally drained, physically exhausted and needing a vacation from my vacation.  Not the feelings you want while you're busy living life.

Doing yoga while you travel will not only relieve stress in these types of circumstances through mindful breathing and stretching, it will also boost immunity, relieve tension, balance internal systems such as the lymphatic system and regulate hormones.  All of which will lead to a much more enhanced and enjoyable trip.

Solo Time

If you are not traveling alone, yoga is the perfect way take a moment out for yourself, connect back to your body and have a little ‘me’ time.  This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to take hours out of the day to do this; a quick asana practice followed by a few minutes of meditation will surely have you feeling energized and ready to recommit to the pack with renewed optimism and a zest for the unknown.

Connect to Nature

There is something to be said for taking your shoes off and feeling connected to the earth beneath your feet, or sitting in front of the ocean and listening to the voices in the waves. Just like love is a powerful form of energy, the energy you feel from being connected to something bigger than yourself can be life changing.

One of the best things about traveling to far off places with your mat is the ability to choose beautiful outdoor settings for your practice.  The forest with it’s cool soil, the ocean and beaches with soft sand and lookout points with amazing views; where you can see the sun touch the edge of world. Who wouldn’t want to practice in places like these where you feel one with Mother Earth?   

An added bonus to being outside in the sun while you're enjoying your practice is the health benefits attributed to the absorption of vitamin D.  This vitamin is a powerful agent in the fight against osteoporosis, depression, heart-attacks and induces faster healing.

Be Present, Be Grateful

Sometimes it’s hard to be present while traveling. The new sensations tease your senses while the kaleidoscope of culture pushes and pulls you in opposite directions at the same time. It’s an internal tug-of-war that’s kind of fun. But taking a moment to be thankful for the craziness can help us see real value when things are calm.

Yoga teaches us to appreciate the moments that shape our lives. It teaches us to take nothing for granted, and to see beyond what our eye are seeing, to actually feel what our hearts are needing.  If we use our yoga in this way, we can breath new life into our surroundings, we can find delight in things for what they are and not what we think they should be, and we can accept everyone for the value they bring to our lives, leaving the nonsense behind.

Inner Strength

Sometimes traveling can be quite scary.  The story I mentioned previously about arriving into a country late where I had no money, no food and no way to communicate, it was very  real. This event elevated my sympathetic nervous system, my fight or flight response and caused me to really dig deep, put my big girl pants on and stop myself from going to a place where I couldn’t help myself. 

Yoga gave me the ability to calm my mind through breathing, to think rationally about my next moves, and to be aware of my surroundings like never before. In this moment I knew I got just a little braver, in this moment I knew I grew up just little more than I had been the day before.

Every new encounter has the ability to push us to the max, to break us down and build us up, to free us from the chains we so comfortably live in and help us set new goals and aspirations. Using yoga during these times will hopefully allow us to see the path more clearly and take the road with less bumps along the way.

We all have a story to tell with different experiences and alternative perspectives. Allow yoga and travel to merry conversations, to encourage growth, to celebrate our uniqueness and allow that positive energy to flow around the world.

Now get your travel on, and pack that mat!

Melanie Carter,
Yoga Instructor & Travelling Yogi

Photo Credit: Darby Magill