Taking your yoga routine on the road is a game-changer for enduring long flights, bus journeys, and road trips. After exploring a foreign city or sitting still on a red-eye for 8 hours, you may feel your muscles tighten, and jet lag can throw your tempers off balance while your diet goes out of order. Keeping a consistent yoga practice may feel impossible, but maintaining your yoga practice and meditation during vacations can make a big difference in how you feel.
What is Yoga Meditation?
Many people tend to use the terms yoga and meditation interchangeably, assuming they’re the same thing. While they share a connection, yoga meditation has its distinctions from other meditation practices.
Yoga, rooted in ancient spiritual traditions from India, involves breath control, physical exercise, and meditative postures. The use of “asanas” or physical poses in yoga aims to establish a divine connection with the universe, with the Sanskrit word “yoga” itself meaning “union.” Some describe yoga as a form of moving meditation, where the mind is calmed, and awareness is heightened through the practice of poses.
Meditation, known as “dhyana” in the context of yoga, is an integral part of the practice. Similar to the physical aspect of yoga, dhyana involves mental exercises that lead to an elevated state of consciousness, often experienced in savasana, a meditative and peaceful state.
One notable difference between yoga meditation and other forms of meditation is that, depending on the yoga practice, yoga meditation typically follows a sequence of physical poses. It serves as the concluding step in the yoga process: first, engaging the body through exercise and then letting go to promote relaxation and mental focus.
This meditative practice not only stabilizes the body post-exercise but also contributes to mental clarity, along with physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. This will help you retain normalcy in your body as you travel to foreign places.
Why do Yoga Meditation?
People often engage in yoga and meditation for the many health benefits they offer, as they work together to support the body in complementary ways. Since yoga meditation typically follows a yoga session, it allows you to reap the benefits of both practices simultaneously.
Here are the benefits of incorporating yoga meditation into your routine:
1. Easy to do
It’s perfect for those struggling to focus or those who find it challenging to slow down for meditation. It provides a way for you to let go, be still, and relax after a physical workout.
2. Improves mental health
Yoga and meditation are associated with increased mindfulness and an enhanced mood.Multiple studies show better mental health and spiritual well-being among those practicing yoga and yoga meditation. It also helps increase depression and anxiety.
3. Reduces stress
Yoga and meditation lower stress by inducing physical and mental relaxation, activating the parasympathetic nervous system. In the process, it decreases blood pressure, heart rate, inflammation, and cortisol levels in the body. And as it decreases stress levels, it may also improve your sleep.
4. Reboots the brain
Both yoga and meditation are helpful in forming and maintaining neural connections. The breathing exercises in yoga meditations help alter the brain waves from excited to relaxed and clear the mind. It also enhances brain areas related to decision-making, reasoning, and willpower.
5. May help relieve pain
If you are experiencing any pain in your body, yoga meditation may help activatepain relief receptors in the brain, offering potential relief, particularly for lower back pain.
6. Brightens mood
Yoga and meditation enhance self-awareness and self-compassion, which can help relieve feelings of sadness and heaviness. A study on a yoga-based emotional training technique revealed improved self-compassion, emotional regulation, and decreased negative emotions with daily practice (Patel, 2019).
7. Builds resilience
Resilience is crucial for both physical and mental health, and it can be fostered through physical exercise, focused breathing, and meditative practices practiced through yoga meditation.
How to Practice Yoga While Traveling
If you’re a yoga enthusiast, there’s no need to pause your regular practice when you’re on the road. While fitting in 90-minute classes might be challenging, with some creativity and adjustments, you can still incorporate yoga into your week or month away.
Here are some tips on how you can still practice yoga while traveling:
1. Invest in a travel yoga mat
If you’re committed to maintaining your yoga routine, consider investing in a travel mat. This ensures a safe and comfortable practice, regardless of the surface. For those concerned about bulkiness, there are folding or travel-friendly yoga mats that you can easily bring with you on your journey. Having a mat with you serves as a gentle reminder of the intentions you set before embarking on your travels.
Here are the factors to consider when choosing a travel yoga mat:
- Weight: The weight of your travel yoga mat matters – it determines how often you’ll actually bring it along. Since packing is an art and overweight luggage fees can be steep, check the weight of each mat. Lighter is generally better, with almost all the mats on this list weighing 2 pounds or less. Some may prefer a bit more weight for added thickness and comfort.
- Foldable Design: Consider how small the travel yoga mat folds down. Foldability is crucial for saving valuable suitcase space.
- Stickiness: Does the mat offer a good grip, preventing you from sliding around during poses like Goddess? On the flip side, is the non-grip texture too rough for relaxation in supine positions? If you’re sensitive to textures, a smoother might be preferable. For hot yoga enthusiasts, a grippy mat is essential when the sweat starts flowing.
- Sustainability: Yoga is a way of life, and sustainability is a key aspect. Consider if the mat is made of eco-friendly materials and if the company supports green causes.
- Style: Your yoga practice is personal and a form of self-expression, so choose a mat in a color that calms you or a vibrant pattern that energizes you. If you’re focusing on a specific chakra, opt for a mat in its corresponding color. Since you’ll spend a lot of time on your mat, find one that you truly love.
2. Find your space
While your travel space might not resemble your usual yoga spot at home, there’s likely a place you can turn into a sanctuary. A terrace, a green space near your accommodation, or even a common area can be perfect for rolling out your travel mat. Your hotel room can suffice, too. If space is limited, focus on standing poses that require minimal floor area.
Pro tip: Choose a hotel room or Airbnb with your practice in mind—look for a spacious balcony, yard, or terrace where you can enjoy sunrise sessions on your mat.
3. Do it in the morning
Travel can be hectic because your schedule is packed with activities. To incorporate a yoga routine, make sure to do it first thing in the morning – before you become busy and distracted. Let’s face it: once the day kicks off, it’s hard to interrupt the fun of a vacation for yoga. Set your alarm and start your day with yoga. No spontaneous happy hour or delayed tour can disrupt your routine if you’ve already started the day on the mat. If your schedule is tight during the day, consider calming yin poses before bedtime.
4. Seize quiet moments
Sometimes, a single pose can make a huge difference. For example, spending extra time in a pose like Downward Facing Dog can stretch your legs and bring warmth to your shoulders. Use quiet moments during your day to break out a pose and feel the benefits.
5. Just breathe
Breathing is essential to yoga. It helps you be more fluid in poses, and it benefits various areas of the body. Deep breathing aids relaxation and grounding during your travels. Practice conscious breathing by sitting with crossed legs, taking a deep breath while counting in, and matching the count as you exhale. If your mind wanders, add a pause of two or three seconds between breaths. Breathing techniques can be practiced anywhere – eyes open or closed, whether you’re on a bus or train.
6. Do 10 sun salutations
On days when moving seems challenging, at least complete a simple set of 10 sun salutations. It’s an easy sequence that you can do without overthinking – plus, it offers a full-body experience— lengthening the spine, opening the heart, strengthening the upper body, and elongating the legs.
As you repeat the salutations, you may find yourself adding more postures, and before you know it, you’ve already transitioned into a complete yoga practice! But even if you stick to just the sun salutations, the difference is remarkable by the end. Your mind will be clearer, and you’ll be ready to tackle the day after a quick and effective 10 minutes on the mat.
7. Be resourceful
When traveling, you’d surely want to pack light, right? Leave bulky items like yoga straps and blocks behind, and use everyday items in your hotel room as props. Improvise – a scarf can replace a strap, a blanket can add extra cushioning, and pillows can stand in for blocks.
One versatile pair of yoga pants is enough. Choose one that washes and dries quickly. There is no need for brand names – find a fit that suits you comfortably.
8. Meditate throughout the day
Even when you’re on the go, you can still perform the important part of the yoga practice – meditation. You can meditate anywhere, and you don’t even need to be in a lotus position.
Embrace mindfulness during activities like walking or eating. Focus on the sensation of your feet touching the ground as you slowly walk or savor each bite of your food. Take a purposeful walk, and consider using meditation apps or exploring free meditation resources on YouTube.
You may want to try these mind-exercising techniques that you can do on your travels:
- Meditate in a seated position for about 10 minutes every morning.
- Practice deep breathing or visualization exercises before bedtime.
- Keep a journal to jot down your thoughts and feelings.
- Express gratitude daily for five things that make you feel thankful.
- Rebalance your chakras by downloading a meditation and listening during flights or moments of reflection.
In confined spaces, try the viparita karani (legs up the wall) position to restore your body and mind briefly.
9. Embrace online yoga classes and download them in advance
If you’re on a budget while traveling, shelling out for yoga classes in another country might be a stretch. However, for regular practitioners, this might be an occasional splurge.
Thankfully, an array of podcasts offer detailed classes that neatly fit into your phone or tablet. A simple search for “yoga class” gives a variety of classes catering to different practice types and personalities. Download a bunch of episodes before you leave, refresh on local Wi-Fi, and voilà – you’ll have a yoga class literally at your fingertips anytime, anywhere. Essential for practicing yoga on the go! Downloading it in advance is handy when the hotel Wi-Fi is down, or you find yourself in a remote location with no cell service.
10. Hit the mat at a local studio
Incorporate a few yoga classes into your travel itinerary by finding studios in your destination. It’s a fantastic way to meet new people in a new city and immerse yourself in a local experience. Before you travel, research the local yoga scene at your destination. You can also check out yoga meetup groups on platforms like Meetup.
11. Take your yoga outdoors
Why not embrace the great outdoors for your entire yoga practice? While some may prefer the tranquility of an indoor space away from curious glances, stepping outside offers a different experience.
Nature’s sights, smells, and sounds can invigorate your spirit, providing added benefits to your practice while allowing you to connect with the Earth. If you’re a bit hesitant, remind yourself it’s just for a brief period. Head to a park lay down your mat under a tree, and relish in the huge space!
12. Consider doing a yoga retreat
A fantastic way to combine travel and yoga is by indulging in a class or retreat. Explore the availability of classes in your chosen destination. When heading abroad, look into local studios, hotels, and spas that offer yoga facilities. Some hostels might surprise you with yoga classes, too.
There are yoga retreats around the world that allow you to stay from one night to a month, often including food and accommodation in the package. These also make for excellent solo travel experiences.
12. Step out of your comfort zone and engage
Don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to connect or practice with fellow yogis for that class-like experience. The beauty of travel lies in the unpredictable encounters – someone at your hotel might be a yoga teacher leading a group class. Another person could have connections in another city, offering introductions to teachers’ studios or even providing accommodation or work opportunities.
Engaging with others during your travels can also teach you more about yourself and your practice. Keep an open mind, talk to fellow travelers, practice together, and discover new dimensions of your yoga journey.
13. Embrace more than just Asana
Asana, or the physical postures, represents just one facet of a comprehensive yoga practice. There’s no need to pressure yourself into physically moving your body every day to embody true yogic principles. You absolutely don’t have to!
Sit in stillness, meditate, extend kindness to those around you—even (especially) when jet-lagged—and strive to minimize harm and waste. All these aspects contribute to the essence of yoga.
It takes some (for some people, a lot) of self-discipline to continue performing any workout routine like yoga meditation while you’re traveling, but it’s absolutely doable. It doesn’t have to be perfect – the goal is to experience the connection between mind, body, and breath. So, whether you’re flowing through sun salutations or trying meditation in foreign places, let your yoga journey be a source of joy, self-discovery, and well-being. Namaste!